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A new perspective on accessibility

This month, as part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we heard from Dot Alma. She’s training to be a British Sign Language Interpreter and has a passion for inclusion and accessibility. Here’s what we learned.

Dot’s interest in the subject began when she was working at a theatre box office and witnessed the barriers faced by the disabled to something everyone should be able to enjoy. Since then she’s been applying her thinking to the world of business and, in particular, digital.

Her presentation included a short quiz that provided statistics every business or service should know. We reckon they need little commentary:

  •      The percentage of people in the UK identifying as having a disability: 18%.
  •      The combined spending power of the UK disabled population and their households: £249bn
  •      The percentage of disabled people who have rejected a business or service because they thought it was inaccessible: 75%
  •      The estimated loss to UK business every month due to them being inaccessible to disabled customers: £2bn
  •      The estimated loss of productivity due to poor mental health in the workplace: £15.1bn

Those stats really do speak for themselves. Thinking about accessibility brings benefits to your business. And that includes both offline and online experiences.

 

The social model

Dot also told us about a new way of looking at disability. Rather than the typical medical model where the focus is on the challenges faced by the person involved, she suggested that we should all adopt the social model.

This model was created by disabled people for disabled people. Instead of focusing on the disabled person as the problem (disabilities are ‘impairments’) it turns things around. The challenge is the experiences that people with impairments face. Whether it’s the inability to join in a conference call or enter a shop, the problem lies with those that provide the service. 

Always review then improve. Then review and improve again. Listen to disabled people and what they need. Be prepared to make changes. Above all, be open minded.

— Dot Alma

In short, attitudes are as big a barrier as stairs for many people.

The main takeaway is that thinking about the needs of disabled people shouldn’t be an added extra but rooted in everything we do. Businesses need to apply the social model to employees, products and services. This means they can hire the best people and sell to a wider audience. After all there’s nearly £250bn up for grabs in the UK.

 

If you’d like to know more about how accessibility can become a natural part of your digital services then get in touch with Ben Campbell or get in touch via the form below. 

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