“Tasting rooms or other public facilities must naturally meet current ADA requirements,” says Rob Kowal, a longtime winemaker.
ADA, which stands for the Americans with Disability Act, provides regulations to ensure public spaces are accessible to those with disabilities. Unfortunately, ADA standards not always enforced.
“Tours through the cellar, barrel room or vineyard will often present impassable accessibility obstacles,” Kowal says.
Here’s how some wineries are changing that.
“[Accessibility] is part of our local culture, and it is also consistent with the values of the King family— values of respect for others and inclusivity,” says Jenny Ulum, senior director of communications at King Estate Winery in Oregon.
“We are in the hospitality business and we want everyone to feel welcome at King Estate. After all, most of us are… temporarily able-bodied.”
King Estate Winery has accessible bathrooms and a lower counter at their tasting bar. Ulum is quick to note that they’ve worked hard to make the entire estate accessible, incorporating ramps, improved single-function locks, grab bars, curb markings and additional accessible parking at their visitors center.
She says the business has also identified areas where they may evolve in the future, like adding automatic door openers and a lowered host stand.
Improving Digital Access
Of course, sometimes wineries may not even know they are inaccessible to disabled guests until it’s brought to their attention.
Fox Run Vineyards in the Finger Lakes is owned and run by Scott Osborn and his wife, Ruth. They worked with a disability organization to get their tasting room up to standards with wheelchair ramps, a low bar and high tables that wheelchairs can fit beneath.
They’ve since added an elevator and created a variety of channels for guests to contact the winery. They see to disabled employees’ needs in a number of ways, too, from making accommodations in their duties to working with a job coach.
However, a lawsuit focused specifically on their website was brought against them in early 2019.
“That experience made us realize that our interaction with people had a much greater reach than just the building where people visited us,” says Scott. “Now consumers interact with our business in different ways, such as online and through social media, and we have to make sure that we continue to think about accessibility as our business evolves.”
Kelli Shaffner, the vineyard’s marketing and communications manager, and Jessica Worden, the office manager, put in more than 200 hours making the website compatible with screen readers. The team now stays in touch with the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, NY, and encourages other business owners to work with their local disability organizations, too.