Business development ยท 22 April 2016

Small firms still ignoring the needs of disabled customers

disabled customers
Some three-quarters of business premises do not have ramps for disabled access
New research carried out by Barclays has revealed that small business owners in the UK are missing out on ?212bn by ignoring the needs of disabled customers.

Less than one-third of small business bosses use large type signs which are easy for visually impaired customers to read ?? while only one-in-ten firms provide written communications in Braille.

The study ? released to coincide with the launch of a new Barclays information portal for business owners looking to make disabled-friendly changes ? also revealed that some three-quarters of business premises do not have ramps for disabled access.

There are 11m mentally and physically handicapped people in the UK ? but almost one-in-five of the business owners surveyed were unsure about what the benefits to them of making their firm more inclusive would be.

The biggest impediment to making a business more accessible for disabled customers is cost ? with 23 per cent citing this as an offputting factor. The perceived hassle of making changes was also cited as a challenge for almost one-in-ten small business owners.

?The research demonstrates a large gap exists in educating and equipping business leaders with the right tools and guidance on accessibility and in catering for disabled customers. It also shows the business that owners could be turning away, simply by not knowing where to start,? said head of Barclays business banking Adam Rowse.

Small firm owners also have a legal responsibility to make their enterprise accessible to handicapped workers. The Disability Discrimination Act ? which requires company owners to make ?reasonable adjustments? to become more disabled-friendly ? was extended to cover micro businesses in 2004. It was superseded by the Equality Act in 2010, when disability legislation was merged with rulings on race, gender and sexual orientation.

The rate of employment for disabled people aged 16 to 64 is currently 46.7 per cent ? compared to 80 per cent for those without disabilities. The Conservative party?s 2015 election manifesto committed it to halving the difference between the two figures.

The work and pensions select committee announced an enquiry to the achievability of this goal in March 2016. ?The government has made a welcome commitment to help more people with disabilities into a position where they can find and then keep a job. If it can successfully be seen through, this commitment could signal a major stride towards achieving full employment in our country,? committee chair Frank Field said when he introduced the move.

Unsure about which aspects of employment law apply to your small business? Check out this guide.

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Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics ? as well as running a tutoring company.