£12.1bn was spent in the hospitality sector last year by people with impairments and their companions. Here at Epos Now we want you to get the most out of your business, so we've pulled together a few tips to help you inexpensively adapt your business to welcome all customers, regardless of their age or impairment.
Disability isn't always visible
1 in 6 people in the UK experience an activity limiting health problem but be aware disability isn't always visible. Only 8% of disabled people use wheelchairs so catering for disability is more than just physical access. By 2025 more than a third of Britain’s population will be over 55 and with age comes the increasing chance of hearing, sight and mobility impairment.
Making sure staff are sensitive to the needs of disabled customers is essential to making your customers feel welcome. 75% of these customers have left a business due to poor disability awareness, so training can help staff feel confident in assisting a disabled customer if they need it.This goes a long way in helping businesses retain valuable repeat custom. These customers are often very loyal to businesses once they've had their needs met.
Good customer service is providing accessible service
Firstly take a look around your business. What are the main barriers a disabled person may face? Not all business will be equipped to deal with all the requirements needed, especially those in older or listed buildings, but any amendments you can make will be appreciated by your clientèle.
Writing an access statement is a good place to start. This is a marketing document that provides detailed information on the accessibility of your establishment. It should contain details of the facilities you offer such as disabled toilets and parking spaces, door widths and stair access. You can view a template and tips on writing one here.
Many people who suffer from impairments are avid internet users as they often have to plan their journey or outing ahead. Ensure your website is mobile friendly and have key information available such as clear contact details and information with possible travel arrangements, including walking distances. Ensure your access statement is available and clearly signposted on your website within a couple of clicks. You may wish to add third parties numbers, such as accessible taxi’s services.
Make all signage and menu design clear, large print in a simple type face is best. Ensure the text is well structured and avoid use of long passages in italics or bold. Have handrails on stairs and in toilets and use contrasting colours on step edges and door frames to provide a visual contrast with the floor and the walls. Ensure all walkways are always clear of obstructions.
Everyone as an individual
Disability doesn't discriminate. Just like the people who have them, everyone's requirements will be different. It’s important to talk to your customers to establish if any further improvements can be made to your business. When disabled people, their families and carers enjoy a welcoming experience they shout about it. There are many positive reviews on online forums and word of mouth referrals generating additional business for those prepared to adapt their premises for the benefit of the disabled.
A recent news story highlighted the positive response met when an Asda superstore in Manchester implemented a quiet hour to reduce the stress and anxiety felt by it’s autistic customers. Having a quiet time or section in your business, turning televisions off and background music down can be a great improvement for people with autism who suffer from sensory overload in noisy crowded places.
Installing a hearing loop can make a huge difference to those with hearing aides. Alternatively be prepared to write things down for deaf customers if a hearing loop is not an option.
Good lighting and markings on large glazed areas are necessary for the safety of the visually impaired. Be fully aware of the 2010 Equality act and the implications for your business. Your establishment might be a dog free zone but It is unlawful to refuse entry to assistance dogs. Assistance dogs come in all shapes and sizes and serve more than the visually impaired, so be courteous and offer them water but ensure your staff don’t distract or feed them without the owner's permission as they are on duty.
It’s about respect
Disabled spending power, or the the purple pound as it is now been called, is a force to be reckoned with. With some small changes you can make your business easy to navigate and more inclusive for disabled people to enjoy. These amendments empower disabled people with the means of being more independent. This group are shown to take longer leisure trips and prove to be very loyal customers in the long term when their requirements are met. Having the right attitude is just as important as facilitating the physical aides, so ensure your staff are well versed on positive action and terminology. Ensure you promote your accessibility to open your doors to as many people as possible.