Not all disabilities are visible!
So 2018 has rolled in, and the festivities of Christmas are fading fast. January is typically a gloomy month. The weather tends to be grey and wet here in the UK, and many of us are feeling the pinch money-wise following the holidays. There’s a definite desire to hole up at home – away from elements – whenever possible. It’s certainly nice to indulge a little hibernation now and again, but no doubt the novelty would soon wear off if we were imprisoned at home for too long…
Sadly for many of the UK’s disabled population, that is a very real scenario. Despite some excellent moves for accessibility, there are aspects of everyday life that still present a real hurdle for many of the UK’s 13 million disabled citizens.
Stories emerge every week from people who have been failed by the system, or simply experienced struggles where there shouldn’t be any. Paralympian Anne Wafula-Strike was left humiliated by a lack of working disabled toilets on a recent train journey (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-38495184). And Nathalie Allport-Grantham who suffers from chronic, yet ‘hidden’ illnesses, was treated awfully by airport staff recently who didn’t believe she was disabled. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/42556222/stansted-airport-staff-told-me-i-dont-look-ill-enough-to-be-disabled)
No person should find going to the shops a struggle. It’s time for retailers to step up.
The legalities are a minefield, and there are many grey areas. New buildings must have disabled access in line with UK regulations, and car parks must have disabled bays. But adjustments to existing buildings are subject to many factors.
Aside from the human element, the spending power of those with disabilities is estimated to be around £200bn in the UK. Who can afford to exclude such a large chunk of income?
Make 2018 the year you open your doors to the whole public, not just the able-bodied. Walk through your premises, look at them through the eyes of someone in a wheelchair, someone who uses crutches. Shut your eyes even – and listen, smell. Make sure the signage is clear, aisles are uncluttered and spacious. Consider adding an accessible toilet, perhaps a bowl of water for assistance dogs.
Above all, support and train your staff to be as friendly and helpful as they can. Perhaps plan for a launch day to celebrate your new-found accessibility, or sign up to one of the many accessibility directories or websites.
And don’t be afraid to ask your customers for feedback – communication is the key to better service.