By Alyssa Schnugg
Two businesses in Oxford are being recognized for ensuring all potential customers can feel comfortable in their establishments, whether they are in a wheelchair, on crutches or even pushing a stroller.
The Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues recently started a new initiative to recognize Oxford businesses that go above and beyond typical American Disabilities Act requirements. Access Oxford recognizes those businesses that are fully accessible.
The first two businesses selected by the commission are Gus’s Fried Chicken on North Lamar Boulevard and Premier Bowling Lanes off Sisk Avenue.
“We are going to start by recognizing two businesses every quarter,” said Cameron Stubbs, president of the Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues. “In 2019, we will increase that number.”
Stubbs said there are about 1,000 businesses in Oxford that have made their businesses fully accessible.
“We look at three main things,” he said. “The entrance, the bathrooms and the floor layout.”
To be considered fully accessible, entrances should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and should have a ramp. Bathrooms should be easy to get in and out. In restaurants, there needs to be enough space between tables for people to be able to maneuver easily.
The two businesses will receive a certificate and an Access Oxford sticker to put on their place of business during a recognition ceremony Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in front of City Hall.
“We are very happy about being recognized,” said Chastin Thompson, general manager of Gus’s. “We try to make sure everyone feels welcomed and no one feels singled out. It’s more about being an inclusive ‘we’ than an exclusive ‘me’ I guess you could say.”
Gus’s just moved to its new location recently from the Square. Thompson said the business re-striped its parking lot to add handicapped parking and added a ramp to the outside patio so customers could enjoy their chicken inside or outside.
“We did some small things like move tables around and make sure they can get in the bathrooms without having to move around corners,” he said.
At Premier Lanes, Karen Melton, vice president and director of marketing, said the entertainment center included access ramps inside and outside, as well as ball ramps and bumpers and developed unique packages for special needs groups.
“We worked closely with Oxford’s ADA compliance officer to ensure standards were met,” Melton said.
Being one of the first two businesses to be recognized gives Premier Lanes a “great sense of pride,” according to Selby LaBarre, general manager of the Oxford entertainment center.
“We strive to make our entertainment center a place where everyone is welcome,” LaBarre said. “We want everyone in our community to be able to come here and have a fun experience.”
Stubbs said Oxford has made great strides in becoming more accessible.
“It’s becoming one of the most accessible towns in the state,” Stubbs said. “Even businesses in the older buildings who are grandfathered-in have made some changes. Many business owners around the Square and around Oxford have gone to great lengths, and we want to recognize them for that.”