United Dental Alliance
United Dental Alliance

Does Your Dental Office Design Pass the Accommodations Test?

| April 28, 2013

Last night I’m walking along on my way to meet friends for dinner when I’m approached by a man in a motorized wheelchair coming up the sidewalk toward me. While I tend to walk to the right side of the sidewalk anyway as a general rule – just like I was driving a car – as the man came closer rather than hugging the opposite side of the sidewalk he actually steered directly at me until I had to step into the street to keep from being hit. We were the only two people on the sidewalk and it is a wide walk, so there was no obvious reason why he felt the need to run me off the sidewalk.

At the grocery where I normally shop there is a woman that I see often that is confined to a motorized wheelchair. She has a bike horn attached to her chair and if you are standing looking at something on a shelf and she wants past she starts blowing her bike horn at you. I’ve been the object of her horn blowing before and I’ve witnessed this several times. Most of the times there is plenty of room for her to go around the person that is shopping but she doesn’t. She wants them to get out of her way.

When I was in high school there was a fellow student that was confined to a motorized wheelchair. He, too, had a bike horn attached to his chair; however, he rarely used it. Instead, he’d just run into other students that were in his way going down the hall. He also tended to run his chair at full speed through the crowded halls.

So, why does there seem to be a general rudeness amongst individuals confined to motorized wheelchairs?

I believe that this stems from a frustration with just how difficult it is to maneuver in a world designed for the walking. While the Americans with Disabilities Act set standards for how spaces are to be designed to accommodate those with disabilities these are only minimum thresholds. To be truly accommodating one needs to strive to live like someone confined to a wheelchair and incorporate as many features as possible into a space so as to make it as easy to work, live, and play in as it is for those with no disabilities – to truly make a space universal in its design rather than just accommodating.

Test out your dental office and see how accommodating it is. Borrow or rent a wheelchair sometime and try to maneuver through the office like you were a patient. Start from the parking lot and go through the entire process of checking in, getting from the chair into an exam chair, back out of the operatory to the restroom, and back to check out. Have each member of your staff do this, too. Compare notes at the end and see the experience from the eyes of a disabled patient. Now, what if a member of the staff was confined to a wheelchair? Would that person be able to do his or her job? The entire exercise can be very eye opening as to just how unfriendly our work spaces are to those that cannot walk.

Perhaps if the world was just a little more compassionate and accommodating to those with disabilities I’d stop being run off the sidewalk on my way to dinner.

James is a regular lecturer and writer on dental office design, green design, and interior branding and also serves as an Adjunct Instructor in the interior design department at The Art Institute of Indianapolis. With offices in Indianapolis, New York, and Wisconsin, James is on the road regularly meeting with clients and speaking with dentists about their design needs. His work has been featured in Building Excellence in Design and Construction, Indianapolis Woman, Metropolis, Metropolitan Home, Home Decor Buyer, Elle Decor, Indianapolis Monthly, Indianapolis Home, Shelter, and The Columbian.

For more information go to: http://www.KusterDental.com

Tags: accomodations test, dental office, dental office design

Category: Marketing

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