Earlier in September, my mom and I were invited by Max Rea to come to the ReMax Excel office on Grand Avenue in Schofield for the purpose of evaluating how accessible their office is for not only clients, but also potential employees with disabilities. This is the first time a business made the “first move”, so I was very excited to go. When a business owner reaches out to improve accessibility, it is a good day!
The ReMax Excel office is housed in the former Harley Davidson building on Grand Avenue in Schofield. We pulled into the parking lot and immediately took note of the 2 handicapped parking spaces. Two spaces were sufficient for the size of the parking lot and the type of business. However, we noted the lack of van access. Additionally, the positioning of the spaces could actually make the access to the front door difficult if both spaces are taken. My suggestion would be to make the van access directly in front of the door and a handicapped space on either side.
The entrance has 2 large doors which are not automatic, however, the receptionist can see through the doors to assist any customers if needed. I had no issues driving through the doors into the very spacious and open lobby. The very friendly receptionist greeted us and a few seconds later, Max Rea came out to greet us. Automatic doors are expensive, too expensive for most small businesses. Our suggestion to Max was to have a doorbell in case the receptionist is away from her desk. This is an inexpensive alternative to automatic doors.
The lobby was so open, but also had plenty of seating for abled bodied clients. The reception desk was a really nice height. I was able to converse nicely with the receptionist. The front desk area was also very accessible for any employee using a wheelchair.
Max showed us to the first of two ReMax Excel client conference rooms. The first room was large and the table was positioned so I could roll right up to it. On the wall was a large screen which was used for the client to view anything from a computer. This not only makes it easier for the agent to share information, but also is beneficial for clients with poor vision. I have a visual perception deficit and need larger print, this screen would be perfect for a client with these types of issues. The second client conference room was a bit smaller and the positioning of the table did not allow for me to turn my chair around to leave the room. I had to back out instead. I am talented at many things, backing up blind is not one of my talents. I would hate to mark up a wall or a puncture a hole. Leaving my mark on a business is always my goal, but that may be taking it too far! We suggested that the table could be repositioned to make more room. In reality, having one client conference room for clients who use wheelchairs is sufficient, it just becomes a matter of scheduling.
On the way to the ReMax Excel employee kitchen, we passed another seating area. The area was open and barrier free. The positioning of the furniture allows the wheelchair user to sit within the seating area and be able to converse with others. All the passage ways from one area to another were also barrier free. The employee kitchen was huge! The positioning of the table would allow any employee who uses a wheelchair to join and sit with their coworkers. Access to the microwave, sink and refrigerator were all barrier free. Additionally, there was an exit door in the kitchen area. The doorway was wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and was barrier free.
Our next stop was the bathrooms. There were two bathrooms, a men’s room and a woman’s room. Both bathrooms were single stall bathrooms that can be locked. These bathrooms were larger than my bedroom! A wheelchair user would have no issue maneuvering a chair within the bathroom and if so desired, can whip a donut! Despite being gender specific; these bathrooms could function as a family bathroom. It would be no issue for an opposite sexed caregiver to assist me if needed. The mirror in the woman’s room was positioned so that abled bodied and wheelchair users could both have a clear reflection. The one significant thing I noticed was the lack of grab bars. These are essential not just for users of wheelchairs, but also anyone who has balance issues. I also like to have a counter or cabinet next to the toilet for extra stability. Our suggestions for the bathrooms was to install grab bars.
Max then showed us the cubicles and offices for the ReMax Excel agents. Every cubicle and office was wheelchair accessible. The area surrounding the cubicles was open and barrier free. There was a computer area that was also open and wheelchair friendly. In fact, I could roll right up to the desk and type away! There was really great consideration given to the layout. The last room we entered was the ReMax Excel agent conference room. There was a huge screen in the front of the room visible from all the seats. The tables would not work for most wheelchairs, but a table could easily be exchanged with one that would work if the need would ever to arise.
Additionally, the building is equipped with automatic lights! The lights will shut off to save on energy cost, but can detect movement and will turn on automatically. This is a win-win, accessibility and energy efficient!
Max Rea was not only a friendly host and tour guide; he was very open to all suggestions. We had a chance to chat and we discovered that he has a family member in a wheelchair. Max noticed at family functions that this family member could not always have access to rooms where family and friends had gathered. This experience really made him aware of issues and obstacles wheelchair users face. I can’t fully express how grateful I am to people like Max. This is a process. Small businesses like ReMax Excel on Grand Ave have limited budgets for upgrades. The first step is awareness and noting what can be improved over time. In the meantime, ingenuity and creativity can make things work!
Thank you Max for inviting me into ReMax Excel! I would like to give Max, himself, 5 Wheelchair Stars for his awareness and willingness to make changes to provide a barrier free experience at ReMax Excel. I am going to give ReMax Excel 3.5 Wheelchair Stars. The building is for the most part barrier free and accessible. Grab bars in the bathrooms would make them more accessible and safer for those with mobility issues. Also adjustments to the handicapped parking spaces will make them more lift friendly and prevent the front door from being blocked.
Until next time…Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’
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