customer service

Being aware of the needs of disabled people isn’t just good business sense, it’s good for your business as a whole.

As lockdown measures begin to ease, many small companies are busy preparing to welcome back customers to their premises and attract new customers to their business.

With many social contact restrictions still in place, it won’t be “business as normal” and businesses will need to think creatively about how they will work in going forward.

Attracting disabled customers

Disabled customers are frequently overlooked and misunderstood. Most people think of wheelchair users when they think about disability access but in fact, less than 8 per cent of disabled people in the UK use a wheelchair. The majority of disabilities – over 90 per cent – are not immediately visible. 

This includes people with learning disabilities, sensory impairments and mental health conditions, as well as people with conditions such as autism and dyslexia.

All businesses have a duty to make their products and services accessible to disabled people under the Equality Act (2010), however, getting accessibility right and being disability aware isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business.

The annual spending power of disabled people and their families is estimated to be worth around £274bn in the UK alone, and this figure is rising.

Here at Access for All, we work every day making premises and businesses accessible for those with a disability, that’s why, to help you get your business moving again, we’ve put together this list of small adjustments you can make to to help make a difference. 

Ways you can make a difference 

Offer your customers a choice of ways to contact you

Offering different ways of being able to contact your business is helpful. For example, someone who faces difficulties communicating over the phone due to a hearing impairment, can contact you by email, or text instead. By offering alternative contact methods, it increases the accessibility of your business and means disabled customers are less likely to go elsewhere.

Make customers aware that you offer accessibility

Let disabled customers know that you are committed to making their shopping experience good. You can do this via inclusivity statements on your website, featuring disabled people in your imagery, and adding alt tags to images you use on your website and social media channels. This will let disabled customers know you consider them as important as anyone else, and help them feel comfortable to discuss their requirements.

Never assume the existence or absence of a disability

It is likely that at least one in five of your customers will have a disability of some kind and many will not be visible. Asking “Can I help you?” can encourage customers to tell you what they need. Don’t be embarrassed about saying or doing the wrong thing; some disabled customers may not feel confident asking for help and welcome proactive customer service. Always be on the lookout for people who may need extra assistance and offer help regardless of whether or not you think the person has a disability.

Be (assistant) pet friendly

Allowing assistance and therapy dogs onto your premises will help widen your audience. Assistance and therapy dogs provide vital support disabled people and those with long-term conditions.  You can pick up an ‘Assistance Dogs Welcome’ sign for as little as £3 and it can make a huge difference.

Make customers feel safe

There has been a lot of miscommunication in the media around Covid-19 and disability. Not everyone who has a disability will be more susceptible to Covid, but over half of the people who have died from the disease were disabled.

Creating environments where customers feel safe and know their needs are being considered is important. You can help make the shopping experience safer, and make disabled customers feel more at ease, by continuing some of the preventative measures implemented throughout the pandemic. These include hand sanitiser stations, distancing when queuing to pay for goods, and contactless delivery of goods.

Be patient and give customers extra time to complete tasks

Some of your customers may need extra time paying for goods or completing forms. Always be patient and re-assure them that it’s ok to take their time.

Be ready to help your customers take their shopping home

Having local public transport information available, including numbers of accessible taxis and be helpful. It is likely your customer has already thought about this but visitors to your premises may be new to the area of not have these to hand.

Being disability aware benefits everyone

Businesses who are disability aware know that it is not just for the benefit of disabled customers, it helps everyone and is great for business.  For example, not only do access ramps help wheelchair users, they also help parents with buggies. Good customer service practices such as asking customers if they need help doesn’t just give disabled customers the opportunity to discuss their requirements, it lets all your customers know that you want to listen and support them.

If you would like to learn more or would like to know about our disability access audits or training we’re here to help.

You can call us on 0800 246 1759 or email [email protected]