The spending power of disabled people is over £250 billion per annum.
However many businesses do not understand how to attract disabled people and support them to buy their products. Because of this, the majority of the Purple Pound (the disability spending power) can be spent with a minority of businesses.
Due to a lack of disability equality training and knowledge, businesses lack the confidence and skills required to engage and support disabled people. Whether it be from ensuring a website is fully accessible by understanding the barriers faced by different impairment groups or developing a customer contact centre that is mindful of the physical limitations brought on by one’s disability.
Barriers such as these can prevent disabled people from feeling confident that a shop, a service or a product they are purchasing will meet their needs. A 2016 survey carried out by Papworth Trust revealed that inaccessible premises, inaccessible websites, poor customer service, lack of awareness, poor communication, inaccessible telephone systems and inaccessible printed information are main reasons for disabled customers tending to swap to a business’ competitor. The survey also suggested that a disabled person would stay with the supplier if the supplier showed willingness and flexibility.
Below are 5 pointers to help you ensure you get your piece of the Purple Pound in 2018:
Ensuring your website is inclusive and accessible for disabled people
There are many ways that you can make your website accessible for disabled people. These tasks do not have to be long winded nor do they have to be arduous or make your website look boring. What they will do is say to you disabled customers that they are valued and that you are making an effort to ensure they have a good customer experience.
Developing content that will attract disabled people is also helpful. An example of this could be: if you are a gym, you may have clientele who typically use specific gym equipment. As a disabled person, I may not think that I can access your equipment. By posting on social media, in your blogs and on your website that other disabled people have used your gym and given their testimonials, you are making it relevant for your disabled audience.
Accessible customer service phone systems
With modern technology, customer service phone systems are developed to be intuitive and efficient. However this is not always the case for a disabled person and can cause unnecessary barriers. For example, I cannot use more than one hand at the same time so if I call a contact centre that tells me to press 4 to place an order, this is impossible unless I have someone to support me. The phone systems that require voice instruction are equally as inaccessible for anyone with a speech impairment.
Developing alternative methods for people with access requirements can support a customer to still buy a product from you without much difficulty.
In a physical shop, the attitude of your front of house staff is imperative to supporting a disabled person to feel welcomed, supported and willing to buy. Ensure that your staff have disability inclusion training that covers areas such as language and etiquette, disability confidence and a general awareness of the difficulties of moving around a shop floor in a wheelchair. Ensure these, and the above will be a no brainer.
After your staff have been thoroughly trained and are equipped with the tools to ensure that disabled customers have a positive experience every time they enter your shop, you should ensure that when it is time to make the purchase, all of this hard work is not undone. It is easy to remember to have step free access or to offer support to any disabled customer whilst browsing your shop but the payment experience deserves to be equally as rewarding. One thing that could ruin this experience is if your disabled customer cannot reach the counter. If possible, consider building a lower counter for a person in a wheelchair to reach. Granted, this is not always possible and in these situations, a demonstrated empathy towards the customer can go a long way. Consider keeping objects behind the counter such as a folder for a customer to lean on when signing and ensure that your card machines can be removed from its holder.
The physical space
All of the above is not relevant if a disabled customer cannot enter your premises. Ensuring that your shop is wheelchair accessible is imperative. If I see a shop that I cannot enter, even if its selling exactly what I want, I will go elsewhere and so will the majority of disabled people.
Once in the shop, ensure that a person in a wheelchair can easily move around and see everything on offer. Do not store items in the accessible changing room and try to have clear access to every part of the shop.
The #PartofMepodcast has practical examples of the barriers facing interviewees when attempting to make a purchase.
Esi (pronounced SE) 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.
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