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Accessibility on the High Street - what an opportunity!

Accessibility on the High Street - what an opportunity!

Esi Hardy talks about the wealth of benefits that disabled people can bring to business

How many disabled people on average do you see in shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels, cinemas, banks… A few? Not very many? Well, chances are that if you’re not seeing disabled people, it’s for one of two reasons:

1. The disabilities you are not seeing are hidden

2. The businesses are inaccessible

If you are a business on the high street, you are losing custom. At the last count, the Purple Pound (the spending power of disabled people) was at £260bn per annum. That’s 20% of your annual turnover.

If this is worth considering, you may want to read on. I have come up with 4 tips to support you to think about how to attract disabled people into your business.

1. Accessibility

It goes without saying that if your business is inaccessible for a disabled person, they cannot enter. Many businesses have said to me, “We don’t need accessibility because disabled people don’t come here”. I have a stock response to this: “If disabled people can’t get into the building, they cannot spend with you.”.

Granted, it is not always possible to make your building accessible, however as a temporary measure consider portable ramps.

2. Communication

Communication is key to supporting your customers and potential customers to feel welcome. The more a person understands how much they are valued, the more likely they are to forgive imperfections in accessibility. Communicate to your customers that you are doing everything possible to help them feel welcome. Whilst doing this, ensure that the communication methods you use are accessible to the majority of people.

3. Signage

In order for your disabled customers to move around, they must be able to navigate where they are going. Several interviewees on the #PartofMe podcast have talked about signage being their biggest barrier when buying a product or service.

Consider where your signage is placed; can your disabled customers clearly see where the lifts are, where the changing rooms are, where to pay, where the restaurant is and how to leave?

4. Staff Confidence

Often customer-facing staff have the correct attitude but lack confidence when interacting with disabled customers. This can be due to an uncertainty about what language to use. My advice would be to encourage your staff to simply talk to disabled people as they would anyone else and if the language is incorrect, the customer will support them to use the correct term.

For more support on ways in which you can develop your business to welcome disabled customers, download our infographic.

Esi set up Celebrating Disability in 2017; offering training, consulting and auditing to support businesses attract, engage and retain disabled people. Having the opportunity to support businesses to see the wealth of benefits that disabled people can bring to business, either as customers or employees is a privilege. She is passionate about disability equality and inclusion and loves nothing more than that "Ah ha" moment with a client when they see what disability equality and inclusion can do for them.

As a physically disabled person, Esi is able to use lived experience of disability to inform any support, advice and guidance offered to clients. This, coupled with the wealth of experience as a professional in the public and private sector, ensures that any outcomes are meaningful for everyone.

Visit Celebrating Disability website here