SMES: Fix Disability Access Ahead of London 2012

With just 2 years to go until the start of the paralympics, Ministers have urged SMEs to see improving disability access not just in order to become more socially responsible but as a way of being more profitable too.

One million disabled visitors are expected in London in 2012 for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and they are expected to bring millions of pounds in business with them.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) have jointly commissioned a report 2012 Legacy for Disabled People: Inclusive and Accessible Business detailing the opportunities that disabled customers bring.

The report shows that disabled customers account for up to 20% of the customer base of an average business but they are poorly addressed and their market is worth £40-£80 billion p.a. And with 32% of disabled people stating that they have difficulty accessing goods and services, small businesses could be turning away a fifth of their customers.

By failing to be accessible SMEs risk losing further business as the consumer experiences of disabled people often affect the consumer choices of family and friends. The report highlights poor customer service, inaccessible telephone systems and inaccessible printed information as reasons why businesses fail to be accessible to disabled customers.

Mark Prisk, the Business Minister, said:

“We want to be sure that businesses will be able to meet the needs of these valuable customers – not just because it is fair or the law but because it makes good business sense. “This report makes a clear economic case that businesses that are more accessible will be more profitable.”

Maria Miller, Minister for Disabled People, added:

“The 2012 Games provide a powerful opportunity for the private sector to reach out to disabled customers, counter disability stereotypes and showcase their equality credentials. Disabled consumers are a significant proportion of the UK consumer market and businesses could be missing up to a 20% of the market by not reaching out to them.”

“It might only take one small change to make a business significantly more accessible to disabled people and we are developing initiatives to support businesses to become more inclusive and accessible in the lead up to the Games and beyond.”

The report also contains case studies and advice on how to improve disabled access. One such example is The Hytte, a self-catering holiday cottage in Northumberland – By providing disabled access the building has occupancy levels of 97% when compared to the national average of 55%.

For further business advice also read Disability Discrimination Act – Access To Goods And Services for some useful, in-depth information.

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