Potteries are mobilizing for their disabled customers

Many who use marijuana can do so to treat pain, loss of muscle control, stress, anxiety, and other symptoms that can stem from at least one disability.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are 61 million Americans with disabilities, or 1 in 4 or 26% of the population.

Interestingly, as more people enjoy legal access to cannabis as an alternative to opioids, they do not necessarily enjoy the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act when purchasing cannabis or working in the industry. cannabis.

Since cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, there is debate as to whether cannabis companies should adhere to federal ADA accessibility laws, including providing reasonable accommodations to customers or to the public. disabled staff.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that all businesses that operate as “public accommodation facilities” must “remove architectural barriers in existing facilities … where such removal is readily achievable” to accommodate customers with disabilities. .

Many cannabis companies, which are technically classified as small businesses, may not be able to afford major physical redesigns to their storefronts that would make them accessible.

They may also not be able to afford accommodations to help employees with disabilities comfortably keep their jobs.

But some are still trying to do what they can.

“We allow them (people in wheelchairs) to park right next to the gate,” said Brittany Friedlander, director of Green Hand in northern Spokane. “We have a girl in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy whose babysitter is not 21, so she can’t come in.

Friedlander said that although her shop does not have official medical marijuana approval, it does have customers who use wheelchairs, carry oxygen cylinders, are deaf or hard of hearing, or have conditions that limit their movements.

“A lot of people are older and don’t want to use a computer, or can’t physically use a computer to pre-order,” Friedlander said. “So if they can’t get into the store, they can call and say whatever they want and we’ll meet them on the curb. “

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board relaxed regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow curbside pickup, which Friedlander said has likely benefited customers with disabilities the most. For those entering the interior, Green Hand has taken small but important steps to make everyone’s visit as manageable as possible.

“Our door doesn’t need to be pulled, but pushes instead,” Friedlander said. “We have a doorman who opens it when he sees people arriving in a wheelchair and helps steer the chairs through the threshold. “

Friedlander says she also enjoys directing shoppers to Piece of Mind stores, as they have many medically approved budgets and are known for providing excellent service to customers with disabilities.

Her clients tell her that POM’s budtenders are patient, provide additional help on demand, and have helped many acquire medical marijuana cards. The Piece of Mind website advertises that it offers medical discounts, senior and veteran discounts, and accepts dogs – an important consideration for those with service / therapy animals.

At 4:20 am Friendly in West Spokane, the staff don’t have a lot of customers who use wheelchairs but have regular customers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Budtenders can use cell phones to type questions or messages.

With so much shopping online, it is also important that customers can access a company’s website. Consumers who are blind or visually impaired rely on screen readers to browse websites and order products. For screen readers to work, a website must be designed with these disabilities in mind.

While some cannabis companies have been slow to make their websites accessible, many have done so following a series of non-compliance lawsuits filed against cannabis and CBD sites – despite the lack of specific regulations. for non-government accessibility, courts regularly rule in favor of the plaintiff – many are now taking steps to ensure their sites work with screen readers, adding alternate text tags to describe photos and images and include other accessibility features.

For those looking for additional ways to improve accessibility and want to go beyond websites and building design, a cannabis consultancy company is advertising nationwide so they can help “dispensary and auxiliary” companies and employees to increase their diversity, equity, inclusion and accountability. Human Informed Culture offers courses to help companies “embed a holistic, collaborative and proactive advocacy culture into their day-to-day business practices.”

In addition to an improved customer experience, the HI Culture website claims that these courses, including industry-specific American Sign Language online courses, increase customer loyalty, optimize engagement and retention of employees. employees, and broaden and deepen the impact on the community.

All of these things are important to Friedlander.

“I started the trend (of providing extra help for people with disabilities) and everyone followed suit,” she said. “I don’t have the time (to personally take customers with special needs into the store), but I do take the time to do so. “


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