‘Businesses missing out on £249bn of income’

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 8 Mar 2017

BUSINESSES nationwide are missing out on a staggering £249bn of income by failing to meet the needs of disabled customers according to an accessibility expert from East Yorkshire.

Ian Streets, managing director of About Access, said the figure quoted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) underlines the financial cost of ignoring a growing sector of the population, on top of the risk of legal action from discrimination claims.

He urged companies to take the opportunity of Disabled Access Day, which takes place from  Friday to Sunday   to look at how they can improve access to their products and services for people who have impairments.

Mr Streets formed About Access ten years ago in Anlaby. He has provided accessibility advice to private and public sector organisations including the O2 Arena, Network Rail, Virgin Atlantic and English Heritage, and his expertise has helped to improve the accessibility of buildings ranging from shops and offices to car parks, leisure centres, schools, churches and castles.

He said Disabled Access Day, which was inspired by the disabled access review website Euan’s Guide, should encourage service providers, planners and architects to open up towns and cities to disabled people everywhere. 

He said: “For many people the concern about making their business accessible is cost. Some will make changes reluctantly and only because they want to avoid a   discrimination claim.

“But there is now growing recognition  of the value of the Purple Pound, the spending power of disabled people and their companions, which the DWP calculates to be worth £249bn a year.

“If you do not make your products and services accessible, you turn your back on a share of that market, and remember that not many disabled people visit shops and restaurants on their own. If you are unable to serve them, you will also lose the custom of their companions.

“Depending on the difficulties encountered by disabled people and the way in which you treat them you may also be at risk of incurring cost, inconvenience and bad publicity if a disabled customer who is unable to do business with you brings a discrimination claim.”

Disabled Access Day encourages people to submit reviews to www.euansguide.com to indicate to disabled people, their families and friends which venues are accessible.

Mr Streets said: “There are so many different aspects to accessibility, from recognising how your policies may be disabling to understanding what sort of physical features in and around a building can present a barrier, which prevents someone from using a service.

“Because a person does not use a wheelchair or have an assistance dog does not mean that they are not a disabled person. Many impairments or conditions are not obvious – they may use a colostomy bag or have learning difficulties.  They are protected by the Equality Act 2010 and are entitled to receive the same levels of service as non-disabled people.

“The best way for a business to meet those needs is to become aware of the physical features or policies which can present an obstacle, and of how to make adjustments and improve training to find a solution.”

Five of the basic points to remember when assessing accessibility:

• The Equality Act 2010 gives protection to the staff of a business as well as customers when it comes to accessibility

• Ramps, frequently used to provide an alternative to steps, must meet specifications on such features as gradient and length, landings and colour contrast. 

• There is more to an accessible loo than widening the door and sticking a picture of a wheelchair on it. The amount of space, the facilities and the layout of the room are what make the difference.

• Glass doors, walls and screens should carry a manifestation, or marking, to make the glazing visible. It should be at a height which is convenient for all users, regardless of their height, whether standing or seated.

• Signage can cause many problems for disabled people. Think about whether the sign is high enough – or too high. Are such features as arrows and pictograms accurate? Is there good colour contrast between the sign and its background?

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