A good customer experience is crucial to succeeding as a small business, but what counts as a good experience for some people isn’t necessarily the case for everyone. Have you ever considered how hard it is for people with disabilities to engage with your business, whether online, or in person? If not, it’s high time you did.
People with disabilities represent a significant demographic. Over 4.4 million Australians, or 1 in 5 people, have some form of disability, such as a mobility issue, vision or hearing impairment, or cognitive disability. In New Zealand, the figure is 1 in 4.
Like everyone, people with disabilities buy groceries and take away coffees, renovate their homes, and get their hair cut. Studies even show they’re higher spenders than non-disabled people in some categories. And yet, many businesses don’t take their needs into account when designing stores, posting on social media, or training staff.
While Australia and New Zealand both have laws requiring businesses to provide equal access for people with disabilities, this is often interpreted as installing ramps at the entrances of buildings. But there’s a lot more you could be doing to increase accessibility and make sure people with disabilities feel welcome. Here are some ideas.
If you have a bricks-and-mortar store, cafe, salon, or office, you should make it easy for people with disabilities to navigate. Ramps and automatic doors are a given, but you may also want to consider lowering the height of some of your tables and mirrors. Aisles should be wide and clutter-free and signage should be easy to read. Try using a 72-point sans-serif font, such as Verdana or Arial, or even better, adding Braille. Did you know that L’Occitane has had Braille on most of its packaging since 1997?
The rise of online shopping has made it possible for people with mobility issues to buy the things they need without leaving home, but for those with vision or hearing impairments, the internet can be a minefield. Keeping your website design clean and simple will improve the user experience for people with low vision, while adding descriptive alt text to any images or buttons will ensure your website is compatible with screen reading software. If you share any videos on social media, make sure they have voiceover as well as captions so everyone can enjoy them.
After you’ve taken steps to make your business accessible for people with disabilities, you should consider featuring them in your marketing materials. In doing so, you will not only send a message that people with disabilities are welcome in your business, but also help to reduce the persistent stigma around disability in society. However, it’s important to do this in a way that’s inclusive, rather than stereotypical or tokenistic. You may want to hire a consultant with experience in this space to avoid accidentally causing offense.
Sadly, many people with disabilities still experience discrimination, so you should also make sure you educate yourself and your staff around unconscious bias and best practices when serving people with disabilities. Stay up to date on the key concepts and preferred terminology of the disability community, and consider volunteering with an organisation in this space.
Making your business more accessible is the right thing to do, but if you’re concerned about the added cost, consider using hummpro to tap into interest-free and manage your cashflow.