NYC Mayor’s OPD And SBS Release Accessibility Resource To Assist Small Business Owners

November 14, 2019

The New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS), the NYC Business Improvement District (BID) Association, and Public Policy Lab are proud to announce the launch of Empowering Accessibility. Empowering Accessibility is a fully online resource that will enable New York City small business owners to more easily understand their legal obligations in order to ensure compliance with accessibility standards.

Empowering Accessibility provides information for all business owners, whether they are in the process of opening a business, already operating a business, or responding to an alleged accessibility issue.

The digital platform includes information on the benefits of making a business accessible, physical and digital accessibility standards, the risks of accessibility lawsuits, and additional resources.

In conjunction with the release of this resource, MOPD and SBS conducted a physical and digital accessibility training for representatives from BIDs across the city to highlight Empowering Accessibility and ensure that BIDs are aware of accessibility obligations when working with businesses.

“The Administration is proud to provide the city’s business community with the tools and resources that they need to accommodate all New Yorkers and visitors with disabilities,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson. “Increased accessibility is not only a civil right but it makes good business sense too. Empowering Accessibility will further educate small business owners about physical and digital accessibility mandates so that they are inclusive for all.”

“New Yorkers and visitors with disabilities must have equal access to everything that the city has to offer, including the myriad of businesses and restaurants that play a critical role in our economy and cultural life,” said MOPD Commissioner Victor Calise. “The launch of this new resource will educate small business owners on accessibility requirements, so that establishments can be accessed by everyone. As we remove barriers, we are one step closer to becoming the most accessible city in the world and Empowering Accessibility gives the business community the tools they need to more effectively serve the nearly one million New Yorkers with a self-disclosed disability and the approximately seven to nine million visitors with disabilities who come to the city each year.”

“Equity for all means providing businesses with the tools to create safe and accessible environments,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “By working together, we’re making New York City a better place for everyone and giving small business owners the support they need to strengthen accessibility.”

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Related: Listen to Gregg Bishop Talk Small Business from Harlem To Hollis and more with Danny Tisdale on The Danny Tisdale Show.

MOPD and SBS were proud to partner with the NYC BID Association and Public Policy Lab to create this new resource. The work was carried out through an Avenue NYC Organizational Development grant, which SBS co-awarded to Public Policy Lab and the NYC BID Association to investigate specific challenges confronting storefront businesses, particularly those located in commercial districts in low- to moderate-income communities.

Representing 76 BIDs in New York City, participants from the NYC BID Association engaged in co-design sessions and field tests to better understand and present challenges and opportunities for specific interventions and future collaborations that could be spearheaded by BIDs and the business community.

The Public Policy Lab’s mission is to design services that help Americans build better lives. By engaging in research at the intersection of policy and user-centered design, the Public Policy Lab facilitated conversations between SBS, MOPD, DOT, and the BID Association to develop a program model and set of tools that effectively communicate accessibility standards.

“The NYC BID Association is excited about the launch of this new online tool. It will give our small business owners the additional information and resources they need in order to make their businesses more accessible and avoid unnecessary lawsuits,” said Mark Caserta, Executive Director of the Park Slope 5th Avenue BID and the Co-Chair of the NYC BID Association’s ADA Compliance Working Group. “These new outreach tools came via a unique working relationship between MOPD, SBS, PPL and the NYC BID Association. We look forward to continuing our work in the coming months.”

“The Public Policy Lab is committed to all Americans having better access and opportunity, so our design team was excited to partner with SBS, MOPD, and the BID Association on this work,” said PPL Executive Director Chelsea Mauldin. “Our research with small businesses, advocates, and community members suggested a real need for clear information on access requirements. We hope that the tools and resources we co-designed with stakeholders will increase access and reduce uncertainty for businesses.”

MOPD and SBS are continually working with the small business community to make them aware of accessibility obligations so that business owners can serve all New Yorkers, including those with disabilities. The agencies will co-host a training for BIDs to learn about business accessibility and how they can use the tools produced in this project to educate merchants in their districts.

Twenty-nine years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many business owners are unfortunately not fully aware of the legal obligations to remove accessibility barriers and the resources available to them to do so. With Empowering Accessibility, business owners will be better educated on their responsibilities to make New York more accessible and the de Blasio administration looks forward to continuing to simplify this information and ensure that the city’s small business fulfill their accessibility mandates.

Explore Empowering Accessibility at

“This new online resource will help small businesses better serve everyone, regardless of ability,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

“Thank you to SBS, MOPD and the other partners who put this useful tool together.”

“Accessibility to businesses is a key component of ensuring our city puts the needs of New Yorkers and visitors with disabilities at the forefront,” said Council Member Diana Ayala, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addictions. “This new online resource will give small business owners yet another tool to assist them in adhering to accessibility regulations for physical infrastructure as well as digital content. I look forward to continuing to work with my Council colleagues and the Administration to foster collaboration between the business and disability communities so that New York is accessible to all.”

“Empowering Accessibility will be a highly useful resource for business owners across the city who seek to be in compliance with accessibility regulations and ensure that their establishment is truly open to all New Yorkers. I applaud this innovative collaboration between the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Department of Small Business Services, NYC Bid Association, and Public Policy Lab. Disability rights are human rights, and every community has an important role to play in our transition to a fully accessible city,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Women & Gender Equity.

“The disability community is an integral part of our neighborhoods and our city,” said Elisabeth Axel, Founder and President of Art Beyond Sight (ABS). “When we create accessibility, we are making opportunities to build stronger communities. Educating the small business community about meeting ADA-compliance is vital for accomplishing this goal. ABS is part of Businesses Committed to Access and Inclusion which brings the small businesses and the disability community together. We look forward to utilizing Empowering Accessibility in BCAI’s efforts. Small Business Services, in particular, should be recognized for the leadership they took in bringing this topic to the fore.”

“As New York State’s first Health Home designated to provide services to people with physical disabilities, Independence Care System applauds the efforts of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Small Business Services, the Public Policy Lab and the Business Improvement District to improve access for people with disabilities,” said Rick Surpin, President and CEO of Independence Care System. Our members with physical disabilities and all New Yorkers with disabilities benefit when they can participate fully in community life.”

“Lighthouse Guild commends the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) and partnering agencies for providing a resource to help small business owners understand and comply with disability accessibility standards. By helping businesses to be accessible, it reduces some of the barriers New Yorkers who are disabled have to overcome to live fully and independently,” said Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, President and CEO of Lighthouse Guild

“The Harlem Independent Living Center (HILC) supports the efforts of The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), Small Businesses Services, Public Policy Lab and the Business Improvement District and their new initiative; Empowering Accessibility,” said Christina Curry, Executive Director of Harlem Independent Living Center. “HILC is also a coalition member of the Business Committed to Access and Inclusion which has a similar mission of educating small business owners on disability access laws. HILC supports the goal of Empowering Accessibility as another resource to ultimately assist the disability community in achieving permanent systemic change regarding access and barrier removal.”

“Small businesses are a vital part of NYC and they make valuable contributions to all that the city offers,” said Brett Eisenberg, Executive Director of Bronx Independent Living Services. “Ensuring that small businesses have the resources needed to being accessible will help all New Yorkers and visitors with disabilities have equal access to so much more. BILS firmly believes that any business that is fully inclusive of people with disabilities at the consumer level and/or employment level have an increased return on investment.”

“The NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (NYC MOPD), Public Policy Lab, NYC Department of Small Business Services (NYC SBS), and NYC BID Association have partnered together to provide resources and information on Empowering Accessibility,” said Michelle Sabatino, Executive Director of the Staten Island Center for Independent Living. “It is a great way to advocate for accessibility for people with disabilities by requiring and enforcing the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) to all new businesses.”

The NYC BID Association was formed in 1995 by the managers of the city’s BIDs, and its membership consists of the managers of all 76 BIDs in NYC. The Association strives to engage and support BIDs of all sizes and capacities, engaging in collective advocacy and policymaking; responding to public misinformation about BIDs; and strengthening the place management profession. This all-volunteer association meets monthly and is led by a board of directors that is elected by the membership for two-year terms. The Association works closely with the City on behalf of all BIDs to improve policies and processes.

The Public Policy Lab is a nonprofit innovation lab. Our mission is to design services that help Americans build better lives. We partner with government agencies – and the communities they serve – to create public services that are more effective, more respectful, and simple to use.

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