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Cambridge's Programs Successful in Improving Accessibility to Businesses

Published: August 31, 2017 at 8:08PM

The Community Development Department of the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts has proactively developed programs to help business owners improve accessibility and "make Cambridge commercial districts more accessible to all."

Exterior: Storefront Improvement Program

A yoga studio, florist, and cafe all benefited from one SIP project, which updated the building facade and made for more inviting entrances. In addition, the SIP funding helped cover the cost of automatic door openers, which makes these businesses easier to access by people with disabilities.

The Department has created the Storefront Improvement Program (SIP) to provide technical and financial resources for small businesses to improve accessibility. The award-winning SIP has successfully increased the number of accessible business storefronts with practical and cost-effective solutions for barrier removal. The program currently offers a 90% matching grant up to $20,000 for ADA improvements to entrances, including ramps, lifts, door hardware and automatic openers, accessible parking and signage. 

A new ramp, doors, signage, and decals were all part of Sulmona's SIP project. (Expected completion date: FY 2018)

One example of a project benefitting from SIP funding, is a building containing a yoga studio, florist, and café. In addition to updating the façade, "the SIP funding helped cover the cost of automatic door openers, which makes these businesses easier to access by people with disabilities."

Several projects have already been completed and others are in the works, such as a local eatery called Sulmona, that will be getting a new ramp, doors and signage in 2018.

Interior: Retail Interior Accessibility Program

The Retail Interior Accessibility Program (RIAP) provides technical and financial resources for business owners seeking to bring their shop's interior spaces into conformance with ADA and other applicable codes and standards. From their website: "This new program will further assist our ground floor businesses in making certain their facilities meet the needs of all customers."

Retail Interior Accessibility Photo

The RIAP offers a 90-100% matching grant up to $10,000 for improvements that comply with ADA and Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (MAAB) standards. Improvements costing less than $2,000 will receive 100% reimbursement. These improvements can include but are not limited to:

  • Braille menus
  • Counter hearing loops 
  • Accessible bathrooms
  • Improved aisles in store
  • Accessible dining tables
  • Interior store ramps
  • Accessible shelving and counters
  • Improved interior paths of travel
  • Accessible register counter

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