As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, accessibility at businesses - for people with wheelchairs or walkers, for example - is becoming increasingly important.
In the key city, a non-profit organization called Proudly Accessible Dubuque is pioneering a push to help businesses comply with the ADA - the Americans with Disabilities Act.
For Connie Jo Miller, owner of Dubuque restaurant Connie Jo's Place, good service is about more than just food and tidiness.
"A lot of our clients are elderly and they have walkers and wheelchairs. We've made sure that all our tables are far enough apart to where any wheelchairs can fit through them - or walkers - and they came all in different sizes," she said at her business Monday afternoon.
Connie Jo's Place bears a sticker in its window that reads, "Proudly Accessible Dubuque," meaning the restaurant meets city and federal standards for accessibility.
Proudly Accessible Dubuque helps businesses ensure they are accessible to everyone, ranging from ramps from Braille signs.
"Most of the issues are so little," Proudly Accessible Dubuque board president Katrina Wilberding said. "If you have an accessible entrance around back, put up a sign at the front door so people who can't do the steps know how to get in."
She said compliance with the ADA is vital for a community on multiple levels.
"From a moral standpoint, you want to just include your whole community," she said. "From an economic standpoint, there are billions and billions of dollars, nationally, available from the people who have disabilities."
She said a business that inadvertently alienates people with disabilities could miss out on profit.
Compliance, however, isn't cheap.
Miller said she had to buy restroom signs with Braille and make upgrades to the bathroom facilities, adding up to about $300, but she said she has seen other area business owners face higher costs.
"Probably close to $5,000, if you have to change your bathrooms in any way, shape or form or if you have to put a ramp in, if you have a step you have to get rid of," she said.
Still, Miller estimates a quarter of her customers have special mobility needs, so having an inaccessible building would ultimately drive away those people and hurt her business.
Wilberding said Proudly Accessible Dubuque wants to help businesses come into compliance without breaking the bank. She said any business owner with any questions should contact the non-profit organization. Its website is HERE. There's also an online SURVEY business owners can take to see how compliant they may already be.
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