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Beyond ADA: Making Your Pharmacy Accessible for Everyone

eyond ADA: Making Your Pharmacy Accessible for Everyone by Elements magazine |

August 8, 2019

Inside: How to go the extra mile to make your pharmacy easy to navigate for patients with disabilities.

According to a 2018 report by the CDC, one out of every four adults in the United States has a disability. That’s nearly 61 million people.

As a small business, your pharmacy is bound by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that businesses make accommodations to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

But if you’re only meeting the letter of the law, your patients with disabilities could still be struggling when they visit your pharmacy. Learn how to go above and beyond and make your pharmacy more accessible for everyone.

Consider the Senses

The Americans with Disabilities Act mostly concentrates on making spaces accessible for those with physical disabilities. But not all disabilities are physical.

Since you can’t tell if someone has an autism spectrum disorder or a sensory processing disorder, it can be easy to forget that they may have special needs when it comes to shopping at your pharmacy.

In 2009, Arizona State University’s Stardust Center and the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture collaborated to create guidelines about designing spaces for those with autism and related disorders.

You can use these guidelines to make your pharmacy more friendly:


Patients with ASD have different, specific needs. It might be difficult to meet them all for every individual, but if you keep these recommendations in mind, your pharmacy will be a more welcoming space.

Create Universal Restrooms

If you have publicly available restrooms, take care that they are accessible to everyone. Restrooms that meet ADA requirements are often still not accessible to those with more severe disabilities.

In the United Kingdom in 2006, Changing Places launched with the aim of creating universally accessible restrooms, and their movement has since spread to the United States.

A standard ADA-compliant restroom should have room for a wheelchair to turn around, grab bars on the walls that can withstand at least 250 pounds of pressure, and sinks mounted no higher than 34 inches from the floor.

But a universal restroom goes beyond the ADA. Changing Places restrooms include additional equipment, such as a height-adjustable changing bench, a hoist system, a privacy curtain, and a non-slip floor.

These additions do require a larger restroom space, so they aren’t feasible for every pharmacy, but the changes go a long way in helping your disabled patients maintain their dignity.

Product Selection

Don’t just keep accessibility in mind when designing your pharmacy’s physical space. Consider your patients with disabilities when stocking your front end.

Take a page out of Lowe’s book—the home improvement store has an entire “Accessible Home” department devoted to helping others create a living space that meets their individual needs.

This doesn’t mean you need to start stocking construction supplies, but there are plenty of smaller items that already fit in to your existing pharmacy departments that would be a welcome sight to your patients with (and without!) disabilities.

Adding items like motion-activated nightlights, reading magnifiers, and emergency alert devices to your merchandise can make your pharmacy into a destination for people with disabilities.

Communicate Respectfully

When serving a patient with disabilities, you may find that you hit some communication roadblocks.

The ADA provides a list of auxiliary aids that assist in communications. Some of the solutions they propose include:


If you create alternative communication materials in large print or Braille, it’s crucial to keep those documents up to date. A large-print brochure letting patients know about how to get immunized at the pharmacy won’t do anyone good if the phone number isn’t accurate.

Having the right state of mind helps, too. If you avoid making assumptions about the person you’re speaking with, it will be easier for them to tell you what they need. Pay close attention to body language, and even if an interpreter is present, speak directly to the patient.

When it comes to communicating about important medical information, it’s important that there are no misunderstandings. Avoid complex jargon, and check in with the patient to make sure they are comprehending everything.

Remember Your Website

Your pharmacy space has an accessible route through the space and other accommodations for those with disabilities. Can you say the same for your website?

With customers frequently visiting retailers’ websites before they ever enter a physical space, if your web presence hasn’t been designed with accessibility in mind, you could be creating a barrier for potential patients.

Web accessibility is a particular problem for people with vision and hearing impairments. The Department of Health and Human Services Usability Lab has listed a few best practices for creating accessible digital content:


You should also take into consideration those with cognitive or neurological disabilities. When designing for those patients, your content should have a clear and consistent structure. Extra features like blinking or flashing might look cool, but they could be distracting. Including multiple ways to navigate the site—like menus and search bars—will accommodate different people’s needs.

If you’re website isn’t accessible, you could face legal consequences just like if you didn’t provide the required handicapped parking. Netflix, H&R Block, Target, and more have faced lawsuits for having inaccessible websites, often resulting in costly settlements.


An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies 

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is an independently owned pharmacy services organization based in Kansas City, Mo., that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, distribution services, and more.

PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

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