When your child has a disability, everyday activities that parents of typically developing children take for granted can be challenging. For example: getting a haircut. When your child uses a wheelchair or has sensory issues, finding a salon and a hairdresser with the accessibility and sensitivity to manage your child’s special needs is not a foregone conclusion. Far from it.
Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, many salons are now wheelchair accessible, yet precious few of them provide comprehensive services to people with disabilities. For example, people with autism or sensory integration disorders may find the environment of hair salons overly bright, noisy or crowded or the experience of having their hair shampooed or cut anxiety provoking. Meanwhile, people who use wheelchairs are often out of luck when it comes to having their hair shampooed or even getting through the doors!
As the population ages, the need for fully accessible salons will increase significantly. Some salon owners and beauticians are taking the requirements of people with disabilities into account. But one thing is clear: There is a significant need for more salons to create accommodations for special needs clients. Here are some of the few businesses in and outside of the U.S. currently catering to people with disabilities.
One such business is KidSnips in the Chicago area. With eight locations, KidSnips salons are wheelchair accessible and its stylists are all trained to work with children with disabilities. According to its website, KidSnips’ stylists take time to explain the haircut process to anxious children. There is even a video on their website showing young customers what the haircut experience will entail. KidSnips’ stylists are also careful to respect young customers’ sensory issues “foregoing clippers and trimmers for scissors…” based on children’s preferences. For children who dislike the sensation of water spraying on their hair, stylists “will spray [their] hands or combs with water to avoid spraying directly on the child’s hair.”
In consultation with Autism Speaks, Snipits, another franchise with locations in Long Island, N.Y., New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and elsewhere, also trains its stylists to work with children on the autism spectrum.
Located in New South Wales, Australia, Shear Abilities is miles ahead of the rest. Owner Desiree McDonald is the mother of a woman with cerebral palsy and is well aware of the indignities that people with disabilities often face when it comes to finding accessible and respectful salon services.
McDonald says she opened Shear Abilities because she wants “to put clients, big or small, with a disability first because they deserve it. They deserve the royal treatment, they deserve to feel equal, they deserve to feel comfortable, they deserve to feel like they are not putting anyone out, they deserve to fit in.”
The salon offers, “entry ramps, special chairs, a lifting hoist and other features that make wheelchair access a breeze. For ultimate comfort, [Shear Abilities] also offers a full lay-down massage chair with neck support. “ Additionally, Shear Abilities has group programs and workshops that “help build confidence and self-esteem.” The business also provides in-home services for individual clients or residents of group homes.
Speaking of in-home services, The Traveling Barbers helps to match people with disabilities with mobile barbers and hair stylists in their areas. According to the website, “the same way Craigslist introduces buyers to sellers, we introduce those with disabilities who are in need of in-home hair care services, to local mobile barbers and hairstylists from their area…”
Jollylocks, another Australian haircutting establishment, offers mobile salon services to children with special needs including those with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities. In addition to working with children, Jollylocks’ stylists will provide in-home styling for busy parents who may not have the time to get to a salon.
Here’s hoping that more entrepreneurs in the beauty industry recognize that people with disabilities are a huge and growing market that deserves their attention!