Businesses urged to include disabled customers

SMEs are being urged to harness the £80 billion potential spending power of disabled people in the UK by ensuring that their goods and services are accessible to all.

The Government has launched a new guide, 'Growing your customer base to include disabled people: a guide for businesses', which coincided with the start of the Paralympics and encourages businesses to do more to include disabled people.

Minister for disabled people Maria Miller said SMEs had a lot to gain from growing their customer base to include the 11 million disabled people in the UK - around 19 per cent of the population.

Launching the guide, she said: "It's a practical guide for businesses which gives common-sense and often low-cost solutions, which can make a big difference to a disabled customer."

"And what better time - at the start of the Paralympics - to realise the contribution that disabled people are making in all walks of life."

Specifically aimed at SMEs, which make up the majority of UK businesses, it hopes to raise awareness of this potential market which is commonly referred to as the 'purple pound.'

Research carried out for the Office for Disability Issues found two main barriers to SMEs wanting to extend their business to the disabled community; low awareness of how to boost sales by making a business more attractive to disabled customers, and discomfort of disability with a narrow understanding of 'access' and making 'reasonable adjustments.'

The guide aims to address these issues, explaining to SMES how to make their businesses more accessible and explain their legal obligations.

In most instances there are practical and inexpensive changes which could make SME services more accessible to disabled customers.

For instance, a shop providing seating near tills allows customers to sit while waiting to be served or rest their purchases at an easier level if lifting is difficult. Additional seating is also appreciated by other visitors such as mothers with pushchairs.

Some of the guide's top tips include:

  • Always choose reasonable adjustments that enable disabled people to access the same or nearly the same service as non-disabled people
  • Don't make assumptions about what people can and can't do, it's always best to ask
  • Customer feedback is the best opportunity to learn more about your customers and their thoughts on how accessible your business really is. They may pass on some useful tips picked up elsewhere.

The full guide can be accessed via the Department for Work and Pensions website.