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Welcoming the Disabled Spa-goer

By: Naomi Serviss
Posted: September 28, 2012, from the 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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There are myriad reasons why it makes sense to have an accessible spa, which is defined as a facility equipped with an elevator, accessible bathroom and shower area, and at least one treatment room with enough door width to allow wheelchairs. New regulations in March 2012 added requirements for public pools, resorts, hotels and spas under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal anti-discrimination statute that became law July 26, 1990.Requirements for compliance include: Exits and entryways need to be physically accommodating for wheelchair or other mobility device use; at least one bathroom, shower and locker facility area must also serve this population; and massage tables should be electrically powered to make it easier for clients to access them. More detailed information about accessibility terms for day spa owners can be found at www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm.

It’s good business

Tax incentives may assist in covering the cost of access improvements and, in some cases, may cover the expense of adding adaptive equipment, producing printed material and providing sign language interpreters. Working with a local tax professional can help you identify whether your facility is eligible for these incentives.

Before he opened his first Oasis spa in 1998 in Manhattan, Schoenberg had many meetings with his architect. “We were grandfathered into some of the ADA regulations,” he says, so he was given a pass on certain modifications. However, instead of taking advantage of the waiver, he made the changes anyway. “I didn’t have to modify certain things, like the widths of doorways and rooms,” he explains. “But I said to myself, ‘Why wouldn’t I modify the spas?’ It could cost me a little more in the short-term, but would prove to be good business in the long-term.”

Schoenberg was concerned about disabled clients when he opened the first spa because it had an outdoor entrance and a marble staircase. Fortunately, he discovered there was an elevator in the building. It was then that he knew he could accommodate people with disabilities. “We get people almost every week that need the elevator,” he says. “They come for a variety of services from body treatments, to skin, hair and nail care. One of our team members brings clients to the elevator and escorts them to where they need to go. These are regular clients who have come to rely on our extraordinary service,” he says. “And the economics of it means it’s just logical to offer accessibility. When clients have positive experiences, they tell their friends.”

Dean Pelton, a regular client with a physical disability, started coming to Oasis when his longtime barber Carmine Fischetti was hired there. “Why do I go to this spa? Honestly, it’s because of Carmine,” he says with a laugh. But it became more than just having his hair cut, he says. “I’m treated properly here and with respect. The staff is wonderful, and I feel safe because they have my best interests and safety at heart.”

Attract the disabled