A recent press release from Barclays Business stated that the ‘majority of UK SMEs aren’t currently catering for disabled customers.’
Making up a significant proportion of the population (17%), there are approximately 11 million people with disabilities in the UK.
Through not meeting the basic requirements and services, such as disabled toilets, ramps, signs and designated parking, many SMEs could be missing out on custom by ignoring the needs of a market worth approximately £212 billion.
Nine out of ten UK SMEs (91%) say that their business does not currently have a lift in place when their premises has more than one floor and 83 % say that their ‘products and services are not designed to be accessible to all customers, including those with sensory or mobility disabilities’.
Furthermore, 81 % of business owners say that they do not have disabled car parking spaces, 74 % cent do not have a ramp and a further 74 %do not have easily accessible toilets.
Despite the provision of accessible communication formats being a requirement under the Equality Act (2010), research from Barclays Business has also found that only 10%of UK SMEs currently provide written communication in braille, 11% in audio and 31% have easy read, high contrast signs in a larger type.
18% of SMEs say that they are unsure of the benefits of an inclusive business and 17% of business owners say they wouldn’t know what adjustments to make.
23 % of business owners stated that the cost of making their business accessible is too high, 8 % claimed that it would be too much ‘hassle’.
However, 77% said that they would seek to make their business more inclusive and accessible if they had the right guidance.
To help with this widespread problem, Barclays have created a new website, providing information, insight and guidance on how businesses can be more confident in catering to a wider spectrum of needs.
Through the site, SMEs can now access a range of resources such as: ‘training for frontline staff and guidance in how to create products and services that are inclusive in design and thus suitable for people with different abilities’.
Adam Rowse, Head of Business Banking at Barclays commented:
“We want to help businesses become more confident on the topic of disability. The research demonstrates a large gap exists in educating and equipping businesses with the right tools and guidance on accessibility and in catering for disabled customers. It also shows the business SMEs could be turning away, simply by not knowing where to start. We have therefore launched a new portal providing helpful tips and practical steps for UK SMEs on how to become more inclusive.”
We recently spoke to entrepreneur, Fiona Jarvis, on how her own disability became the inspiration for her innovative app, Blue Badge Style.