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Welcoming the Disabled Spa-goer

Naomi Serviss October 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
The Royal Caribbean cruise line follows the lead of the ADA accessibility guidelines for land-based facilities, resulting in leading-edge spas that are available for all clients, disabled or otherwise.

The Royal Caribbean cruise line follows the lead of the ADA accessibility guidelines for land-based facilities, resulting in leading-edge spas that are available for all clients, disabled or otherwise.

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Liz Henry of San Francisco is an avid spa-goer, despite a chronic pain condition that makes it painful for her to lie face down on a treatment table. “I’m not in a wheelchair, but I have difficulty walking,” she says. “I love spas and go regularly to Kabuki Springs, a day spa in San Francisco. It has a lift to get you past the stairs, and it has an accessible bathroom. The main spa room is big, and the staff is very attentive and always brings you things.”

A sauna and hot tub fan, Henry also enjoys reflexology treatments. “What I like about the staff in another spa”—Natalie Salon in Redwood City, California—”is that there aren’t any jaded therapists,” says Henry. “People ask if you need help, like taking off your socks, and they really listen. They don’t act like it’s a big pain to help,” she says. “Everyone is very positive and helpful. And I like the spas that advertise their accessibility, especially on their websites.”

Bruce Schoenberg knows full well the importance of encouraging the disabled consumer to spend quality time in his spas. “When I first entered the spa industry, I became aware that there were so many kinds of people attracted to spas,” explains Schoenberg, the owner of three Oasis Day Spas in the New York City area. Among them is the disabled community.

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Make Your Skin Care Facility Disability-friendly

According to Ron Pettit, senior specialist, access for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., by taking the following steps, your skin care facility will be on its way to becoming more disability-friendly.

  1. Invest in some basic accessible equipment. This may include an adjustable-height massage table that can lower to 17–19 inches off the floor for easy transfer from a wheelchair, as well as a transfer lift for pools and whirlpools if the facility has them.
  2. Train team members in disability awareness. There are several online courses available, however the best resource is a local independent living center (ILC). There are ILCs in every major city and, if there is not an ILC in your city, reach out to a disability advocacy organization. These organizations often have consumer education as one of their primary objectives and would be happy to present a disability sensitivity awareness course to your team. Knowing the basics in disability etiquette, language (using the correct words) and how to interact with people with specific types of disabilities goes a long way in making the staff disability-savvy.
  3. Reach out to a local disability advocacy organization. Ask this group to do a walk-through of your facility and give suggestions on how to improve access. If you’ve never had someone with a disability in your facility, you may not know how to make it better. Although this doesn’t equal formal ADA compliance, it provides some help on how to improve spa access. This also gives you leverage in case there’s a lawsuit; you can point out that steps have already been taken to find out what’s wrong and then correct them.
  4. Add accessibility feature information to your facility’s website. People with disabilities use the Internet all the time, and very few spas even mention accessibility. It is also helpful to place a wheelchair symbol at your main entrance—and other entrances, if applicable—to show that you are accessible. It’s a visible indicator that the facility is welcoming to people with disabilities.

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