We’re working with the ONS to raise awareness of barriers disabled people face
Last month the Office for National Statistics released some new research looking at the barriers disabled people face in accessing goods and services. This means things like going to the hairdresser’s or the bank, as well as shopping online or in person – activities that lots of us need to do on a regular basis.
Sense was involved in the steering group for this research. We know that these barriers affect people with complex disabilities, so we’re helping to raise the profile of the research’s findings and recommendations.
What are the barriers that people are facing?
The research found many different barriers, including:
- Restrictive building layouts.
- Inaccessible online services.
- Poor information provision.
- Inflexible design of customer services.
Services often aren’t designed with the needs of disabled consumers in mind. For example, a shop layout might not be suitable for someone who uses a mobility aid.
The research participants shared examples of how buying goods and services online also has its own problems.
Why is this a problem?
Disabled people should have the same ability to access goods and services as non-disabled people. It’s clear how frustrating and unfair it can feel when this doesn’t happen.
Companies must make sure they don’t discriminate against disabled customers according to the Equality Act. Their legal obligations also extend to making reasonable adjustments for disabled people to use their service. Any business that isn’t providing a suitable service for disabled people could be breaking the law.
Making businesses open to disabled consumers also makes financial sense too. The “purple pound” is a term used to describe the spending power of disabled people and their families. It’s currently estimated to be £250 billion a year.
What needs to change?
When it came to thinking about the future, research participants said that flexibility was key – given the wide range of needs that disabled people can have, physical and online environments need to be flexible and adaptable. Any support for helping people to access services needs to be meaningful and readily available.
Another recommendation from this research is that disabled people should be involved in policy and service decisions that impact their lives. Including disabled people in the planning or development process is a highly effective way of ensuring that any assistance they need is considered from the start.
Training for staff can also go a long way in making a more inclusive environment for disabled people by increasing empathy and understanding. Disability awareness training can give staff more confidence to make the adaptations disabled customers might need.
If you’re interested in increasing inclusivity in your business or local area, take a look at our five top tips to make your community more inclusive.
Also, check out the Association of Convenience Stores Everyone’s Welcome Guide.