Adaptation for disabled customers

The Equal Opportunities Act (which replaces the Disability Discrimination Act) affects the way you treat your employees, applicants and customers. According to the Equal Opportunities Act, small and medium-sized companies must make “appropriate adjustments” in order not to discriminate against disabled customers.

The law was designed so that you only need to make reasonable changes. However, if you don’t do what is appropriate, a disabled person can take legal action against you to treat them unfairly. It could be based on a policy or a one-time action.

What is “reasonable” for my company?

To act within the law, here are some things to consider when deciding what type of change is likely to be appropriate for your business:

  • Business type
  • annual sales
  • Customization costs
  • Operational disruption while the work is being carried out
  • Practicability of customization
  • Potential benefits for disabled customers

What is appropriate depends on a number of factors, including the resources available to the organization making the adjustment.

The Equal Opportunities Act states that you must not treat disabled customers unfairly, regardless of the size of your business. If your organization is inaccessible to disabled people, you may miss out on a lot of potential customers.

“The ability to see the difference as a whole and accept that there is no quick fix. Just apply the concept of human interaction that you use with other people, ”said Liz Johnson, former Paralympic swimmer and founder of The Ability People.

She also points out the importance of challenging your unconscious bias towards disabled customers. This means not making assumptions and recognizing that there are a number of differences within disabilities. For example, a visually impaired person may have only mild visual impairment and not a person who has great difficulty seeing.

There are plenty of practical things you can do too. Some changes don’t cost much, e.g. B. the provision of a seat for people with reduced mobility who cannot stand for long. If you are unsure how to help a disabled person, it is worth asking them what you can do to help.

Here are some of the things to keep in mind.

Access to your information

– Are signs and labels short and easy to read?

– Do you have different versions of customer information? For example: brochures, leaflets, menus

– Can people get in touch with your company in different ways? For example: by phone, email or chat bot / instant messenger

– Is your website accessible? What about your app? Not all functionality is moved from your website to your app. Some disabled people already have accessibility software built into the devices they have implemented. It is therefore worth checking whether your app is compatible.

Access to your premises

– Is there a place to sit when customers have to queue or wait?

– Are all important facilities on the ground floor? Are popular products on a mid-height shelf? Can disabled customers order in-store on a tablet or freestanding screen?

– Is it easy for the visually impaired to see everything they need?

– Is there level access to and within your premises? This means no steps, steep slopes, or lips on the doors.

– If there are steps, can you put a ramp or install an elevator so that disabled people can get on?

– Can you install a bell or buzzer outside and visit disabled customers when they ring?

– Are door handles easy to grip and easy to reach for wheelchair users?

– Are corridors and aisles free of obstacles through which a wheelchair can drive?

Customer service

– Do your employees know how to help disabled people in an emergency?

– If you normally ban animals, consider relaxing it for assistance dogs. Remember, assistance dogs are not only used by the visually impaired.

– Are the staff trained to provide assistance on request?

If you cannot make such adjustments for a disabled person, consider other ways to provide equivalent service to customers, such as: B. online access to your products or services or even home delivery.

Get it right the first time

According to Liz Johnson, adding accessibility to your first draft or redesign will save you money in the long run.

“It’s about the consultation phase, which is to ensure that all of your customer base, customer base, employee base or potential tribe of those populations is represented,” she said.

She added that when it comes to diversity and inclusion, people tend to reach out to a specific group to help, and this is where cost comes in. Measures may not be as effective as you initially hoped they would be.

An example would be installing an elevator where you get in and hold the button to move the elevator. This can be disadvantageous for a wheelchair user who does not have the full function of his arms. They may not be able to generate enough force to hold this button all the way through, or they may not be able to get their hand into the position they need to be in order to operate this button to press.

“The most important thing is that 70 percent of disabilities are invisible. Because of this, at the planning stage and at every stage, you need a stand-in from someone who can speak up for these differences, no matter what, ”she said. Groups like The Ability People can work with organizations on issues like environmental impact assessment and building design.

Another aspect that is right early on is staff training. Johnson recommends training that encourages employees to look for difference and treat each individual with empathy. “It is definitely important that companies, regardless of their size and shape, empower employees by eliminating the element of fear through education and awareness,” she said. “This is the block. Lots of people don’t want to say the wrong thing, so they don’t do anything. Or they are so concerned about doing the wrong thing that they rethink what they are saying and they absolutely say the wrong thing. “

She recommends an inclusion awareness workshop program that gives employees a safe space to explore the “why” and “how” of the “what” and how it is different. This can help employees break thought cycles based on prejudice or previous experience and apply different disabilities to real life scenarios. “These workshops shouldn’t be viewed as a diversity and inclusion (D&I) project, but a learning and development project,” said Johnson.

Case Study: Tom Hughes, Digital Manager at Coast Road Furniture

Coast Road Furniture introduced a mobility range when the business transformed from a carpet store to a furniture store in the 1970s. Tom Hughes explains to why the mobility space is beneficial for the company.

Many of our suppliers make mobility furniture. So you have the lift and tilt chairs and the beds that do the same. The way our store is designed is quite long and flat with quite a bit of storefront which means we have easy access and people can park right in front of the store. The mobility area is on the ground floor, as close as possible to a door.

We also sell home furniture, so many customers have come to us for a complete set. You want a three-part suite with armchairs and mobility furniture suitable for guests or family members. Since we also make carpets and often want to renovate the entire space, they often come to us to minimize the hassle of multiple companies coming to their home.

Mobility furniture costs more overall. They have long guarantees because if they go wrong it can be disastrous. So you have to be equipped with things like battery backup or backup systems. That increases the cost. With the 20 percent VAT, it saves quite a bit. Since you (the customer) do not pay VAT and as a company we do not have to pay VAT as this is the entire part of the turnover. In some ways, the premium for mobility furniture can be a little higher.

We rarely have problems with it because the furniture is made to a very high standard. It is a good product that is reliable, well made and originated in the UK which is very pleasing to the customer base. It’s definitely a positive part of the business.

Learn more about the Equal Opportunities Act

The Equal Opportunities Act falls under the purview of the Government’s Department of Labor and Pensions, which provides information and support to employers through disability employment advisors located within its network of Jobcentre Plus offices and job centers.

For more information on employing people with disabilities, see the Disability Services for Employers section of the website.

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