Are You Shutting People Out Of Your Business?

Closing the door on paying customers seems like the kind of mistake that no self respecting business owner would make – but many are, without even realising it.

In the UK, disabled consumers are worth an estimated £274m per year to the economy – and they may never be able to enter your premises at all! But providing access is about more than just ensuring wheelchairs can fit through your front door.

When someone says ‘disabled’, many people picture a person in a wheelchair, or a blind person with a guide dog. But more people than you may realise (14.1 million in the UK alone) are living with disabilities or learning differences – and they don’t all have dogs or wheelchairs.

You can’t always tell if someone is living with a disability just by looking at them.

For example, it’s not always possible to see if someone has hearing loss, weakness in their hands, or a disability that affects their mind in some way.

And here’s the thing, if a person with hearing loss (or any other disability) can’t comfortably navigate your business, then that person and their family and friends won’t be coming through your doors.

Instead, they will go somewhere they are all made welcome. Can you afford to turn away groups like this?

What Can Your Business Do To Be More Welcoming To People Living With Disabilities?

It’s often little things that make the difference, with staff training perhaps being the most important.

If your team is comfortable around people with various disabilities, and has the freedom to make accommodations for them that will make their lives easier, it will go a long way to helping disabled people and their families feel welcome.

For example, moving around the chairs in a restaurant so that wheelchair users can access all the tables is a simple, yet highly inclusive, thing to do.

Besides this, lots of other small measures can make a big difference – such as:

Making sure your menus or information leaflets are available in large print so they can be easily accessed by a person with sight loss

Putting subtitles on the information films at your tourist attraction so that people with hearing loss can understand the information

Keeping aisles clear of clutter so that wheelchair users, people with pushchairs, and people with limited vision can navigate your premises safely

Offering occasional sensory-friendly or ‘quiet’ sessions with no background music or flashing lights for people with sensory processing disorders, or for those who need well-lit surroundings to lip-read

There are, of course, bigger things that can be done too. These include:

Installing equipment in your holiday accommodation (such as level-access showers and adjustable beds) that will allow people with physical disabilities to stay there in comfort

Helping people with learning disabilities or autism to prepare for a day out by giving them information in advance that will help prevent sensory overload or ‘meltdowns’

Using automatic or push-button door opening systems

Providing audio description for exhibitions or displays

If you’re interested in learning more, Access Cornwall is a Community Interest Company that is building a website showcasing the places in Cornwall to go, to eat, and to stay, that actively welcome people with disabilities or learning differences.

If your business is already accessible and welcoming to the disabled, or if you’d like to learn how to make it more inclusive, we’d love to chat with you about having a listing on our website.

You can find us at www.accesscornwall.org.uk or by emailing hello@accesscornwall.org.uk

Article by Hannah Danson, Director of Access Cornwall CIC

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