“Since launching the service earlier this year, our organisation has been helping small businesses in London to raise their disability awareness. Even if you are a micro business, there are a number of things that entrepreneurs can do to become more inclusive.
Compared with large organisations – who often have entire departments devoted to it – I hear daily from small businesses who tend not to think outside of their legal obligations about how their business interacts with disabled people. This could be a huge mistake….
As a small business, moving disability inclusion up your list of priorities is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes great business sense. Below I outline why it is important to do so and how becoming more accessible can benefit your business.”
If I asked you to picture a disabled person, what would they look like?
If you answered, ‘someone in wheelchair’, you may be surprised to learn that only around 8% of the UK’s estimated 14.1 million disabled residents use a wheelchair on a regular basis. In fact, the vast majority of disabilities – health conditions that effect a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks such as shopping, are what are often referred to as ‘non-visible disabilities. These may not be immediately obvious when looking at someone and can include mental health conditions, learning disabilities, hearing and visual impairments, people with cancer and long covid sufferers.
Making changes to open your goods and services to disabled customers can be easier than you think. For example, simply by changing the size and font you use on marketing text, you can remove obstacles for people with learning disabilities or visual impairments to better read and understand your information, and therefore be more likely to buy from you.
Most of the time it costs nothing more than a bit of thought and effort, to increase the accessibility of your products and services to disabled customers.
Thinking about your place of work, are there any disabled employees at your business?
When there appears to be no disabled employees in an organisation, many small business owners may not know what, or indeed know why, they should do anything different to support their employees. By devoting time and resources to something that doesn’t appear to affect your business may seem unnecessary. However, it is anything but, and will ultimately help you keep good employees and recruit from a more diverse talent pool.
Statistically in the UK, the vast majority of disabled people, over 83% of them, develop their disability in adult life. This means most disabled people develop their disability or condition whilst in work. By knowing how best to support an employee who develops a disability will mean you’re more likely to keep talented, engaged staff. Furthermore, it will open your job opportunities to the huge diverse pool of disabled talent.
Additionally, around 1 in 5 people in the UK are disabled or have a long-term health condition. This means there might be people at your organisation already who are not receiving the support they need to flourish at work. There are several reasons why someone might not want to tell their employer about a disability, for instance, in Business Disability Forum’s The Great Big Workplace Adjustment Survey, we discovered that 34% didn’t ask their employer for help they needed due to fears of being treated differently.
Make disability a priority. It’s not as difficult as you might think and it’s great for your business.
Here are some more reasons why your business will benefit from doing more for your disabled employees and customers:
- Spending power of disabled people
Disabled people have significant spending power. In the UK, disabled people represent roughly £274 billion of spending power. This is money that you cannot afford to be turning away.
Good business is inclusive business.
- Brand and competitive advantage
In a recent survey it was revealed that 75% of disabled people and their families say they have taken their custom elsewhere because of poor accessibility and customer service.
Think about businesses similar to yours – would a disabled person be able to identify easily which is the one for them? And if not, why not yours?
Disability inclusion represents a huge competitive advantage for businesses that can build a reputation as a disability-inclusive brand.
- Attracting the best talent
It’s not just customers that reward inclusive organisations – research shows that disabled employees are more likely to apply for jobs at organisations that are inclusive and they’re more likely to stay there too.
The best candidate for the job could be a disabled person, but you’ll never know if they’re turned away because your organisation doesn’t do enough to include them.
- Keeping good and reliable employees
Many disabled people report leaving a job because their workplace was not supportive of their disability.
You may have managed to recruit the best person for the job, but they are more likely to leave if they face unnecessary barriers at work. In Business Disability Forum’s ‘Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey’, we found that 80% of employees who had received support from their employers to remove barriers at work, helped them stay in their jobs.
Disability inclusion helps you keep the talent you have.
Any indication that your business is acting unfairly could negatively affect your reputation. There is an increasing awareness that organisations have a duty to act to promote inclusion.
As a result, businesses that do more to promote disability inclusion at their organisation stand to gain reputationally.
- It’s the right thing to do
Simply put, people shouldn’t face barriers to employment or participation in society because they are disabled. By helping remove everyday barriers experienced by disabled people so they have the same opportunity as non-disabled people creates a more equal and fair society and is the right thing to do.
Smarter London SMEs is a free disability advice service open to any small or medium sized business in London.
International Day of people with Disabilities is Friday 3rd December https://idpwd.org/