W. C. Duke Associates: the dot com for disability etiquette

wheelchair user entering accessible van

With the graying of America barrier-free design will have to become mainstream with access for all.







Hot Trends

by Janet Comley


Cheryl and Bill Duke knew that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, would have an impact on their business. The year before, the husband and wife team launched W.C. Duke and Associates, a consulting and training firm in Woodford, VA, that teaches hotel, restaurant, entertainment and retail personnel how to serve customers with hearing, visual or mobility impairments.


Drawing from their own experiences - Cheryl has degenerative arthritis, Bill is hearing impaired and their son has muscular dystrophy - the Dukes knew firsthand that the disabled population was under served within the hospitality industry. They also knew that a sleeping giant - 56 million disabled Americans between ages 15 and 65 - was awakening. The U.S. Census Bureau lists the population's annual disposable income as $188 billion.


ADA forced big business to recognize what the Dukes have known all along. "Our company is growing because businesses are slowly waking up that people with disabilities have money," says Cheryl.


Products and services for people with disabilities get an additional boost from another demographic shift - the graying of America. According to the US Bureau of the Census, the median age will be 63 by the year 2020. "What applies to persons with disabilities applies to the aging," says Cheryl. "You're going to see more barrier-free designs and related developments."