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An Inclusive Customer Experience

Jean Marie-Lawrence

  In Chattanooga, Tennessee, a local hair salon welcomes and accommodates all customers. One satisfied customer enjoys going to the salon to get her hair done without having to worry about whether or not the shop is accessible. 

Jean-Marie Lawrence lives in downtown Chattanooga and is 33 years old. She has Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. She enjoys getting out as much as possible. She has found a home at Ed/it Salon where she and her hair feel safe and included. 

“I’m really picky when it comes to hair stylists and with my hair in general. I really appreciate the collaboration between a stylist and myself. That collaboration can be hard to find,” said Lawrence.  

Lawrence found this collaboration in Ed/it Salon. “Someone recommended the salon to me and so I contacted the owners, Eddie and Jarrett, to learn more. They were excited to work with me. They were concerned their salon space wouldn’t be accessible in the ways I needed it to be, even though their building already met Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. They wanted to make sure they met my specific adaptations.” 

Eddie and Jarrett met Lawrence at her house not only to style her hair for the first time, but to also see how her chair operated and if they could accommodate her in the salon. After the first appointment, Lawrence continued to frequent Ed/it Salon. 

“Eddie and Jarrett are welcoming and friendly. The experience at their salon has always been wonderful. It’s more like visiting a friend than getting my hair done. Sometimes, it takes hours to completely style my hair. I’ll order lunch and sometimes dinner and spend the day there. For me, the salon is different. Everyone there is like family to me; you feel like you’re a part of their family. I have never felt more accommodated at any other salon.” 

The salon was recently remodeled and the owners sought Lawrence’s input in the design. They checked the measurements of her chair to make sure there would be enough room for Lawrence to recline to have her hair washed. 

“They take access and inclusion very seriously. They also just started a portable salon where they can take their services to people. They’re making a ramp for it for customers in wheelchairs so that everyone can access the service.”

Lawrence encourages businesses in Tennessee to make the same moves that Ed/it Salon is taking to be more inclusive. 

“I think businesses forget people with disabilities are the largest minority in the U.S. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking able-bodied people are the only people who buy services and products. However, that’s not the real make up of this world. Making your business accessible for people with disabilities means it’s also accessible to everyone, such as the mom with three kids and a stroller, the guy who uses crutches for a little while after surgery, or the older woman who has a bit more trouble getting around these days. Accessible design helps you connect with all your customers.” 

“We don’t expect businesses to have all the answers. If a business owner is looking to be accessible to every customer, reach out to someone with a disability. We’d love to help you! You can also reach out to disability organizations and architects for resources and guidance. Talk to us who have lived this kind of experience. It means a lot to us as customers when you think to include us in your decisions. I’m much more likely to frequent a business who shows they care about their customers.” 

Ed/it Salon is an example of a salon that makes sure their customers have an enjoyable experience. When business owners make the smart decision to be inclusive, it benefits everyone. 

Tennessee Businesses for the Better (TNB4B) are companies that have taken small steps to serve a big group of customers - Tennesseans with disabilities. In this new statewide recognition initiative by the Tennessee Disability Coalition, TNB4B applauds the work of these companies for their smart and inclusive approach to business. As approximately 1.6 million Tennesseans have some type of disability, it’s not just the smart thing to do. It’s the right thing to do.