Many businesses could increase their potential customer base by up to 10% by becoming more inclusive and user friendly for everyone, including those affected by disability.
Some businesses such as the big supermarket chains and other major retail outlets deliberately market to a wide variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, impairment, and age.
However, many other businesses are not in any way as inclusive.
Much has been made about the value in attracting the “grey dollar” (older customers) and the “pink dollar” (LGBTQ customers), but these markets are considerably smaller than the “disability dollar”.
Australia has over four million people with some form of disability. That's one in five of our population and this proportion is only increasing as the population ages.
The link between age and impairment provides even greater understanding of why smart businesses are ensuring they are accessible and welcoming. About 40% of Australians aged between 65 and 70 years are affected by disability.
It is not difficult to start taking steps to become more inclusive no matter what size business or industry sector.
Among the common problems faced by people with an impairment which can be addressed easily include:
- Barriers to the physical environment such as steps, narrow or crowded spaces
- Barriers to information such as text that is difficult to read, information that is hard to understand or publications only available in limited formats. For example, brochures may use a small font. Some people with a hearing impairment may not be able to follow video marketing clips unless they have captions
- Barriers to communication such as a limited range of options for people to contact your business or lack of awareness about how to communicate effectively. For example, only providing a phone number or relying exclusively on websites to promote your business
Improvements to buildings and facilities are not always costly. Simply changing the layout of a room or store can create more space for people who use wheelchairs or who are sight impaired.
Businesspeople will often ask me where they should start. They don’t realise but they actually have a resource at their disposal which they’ve been ignoring - their own customers. If your business has customers who have impairments, ask them: “how can we improve our service”?
It’s called co-design which I’ve previously written about.
Tourism is one sector which has enormous potential to capture the “disability dollar”.
The size of the current accessible tourism sector is about 1.3 million people, or 7% of the total Australian adult population.
However, as many people with an impairment travel with others, especially when they need to travel with a carer, the multiplier means that about 14% of the Australian population - an estimated 3.4 million people – are seeking accessible tourism experiences and services for both overnight and day trips.
The annual expenditure by tourists with disabilities is estimated at $3.2 billion. Again, the multiplier of those travelling with a person with an impairment means the true value of the sector could be as high as $8.0 billion.
You can easily understand how making small inclusive changes to improve communication, bookings and physical access to any type of tourism business could be commercially beneficial, and help attract a relatively untapped market along with other groups such as parents with prams, people with temporary injuries and visitors with heavy bags.