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Businesses lose millions for turning their backs on disabled customers

BATH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: A sign is displayed above a disabled car parking bay on February 16, 2011 in Bath, England. The government is currently considering a range of measures after it was revealed that the system - which allows badge holders free parking in many pay-and-display bays, at meters and on single- and double-yellow lines - was being widely abused. Currently, over 2.5million people qualify for the scheme, but research has shown that over a half of users are not entitled to use them and that there is widespread fraud and abuse involving the badges. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A new report has found that UK businesses – including those in the retail sector – are losing millions of pounds of revenue every year by turning their backs on disabled consumers.

More than 13 million people in the UK – a fifth of the population – are disabled, and a new poll of people who consider themselves to be disabled has revealed that UK companies do not make it easy for them to spend their money.

More than half of respondents are struggling to make purchases of a product/service due to their disability. Disabled young people (aged 16-24) fare the worst – more than three-quarters of them say they have found it difficult to buy goods online or in person due to their disability on more than one occasion.

Some four in five disabled customers say businesses could do more to be accessible.

More than half (56%) agreed that improving staff understanding about different disabilities would encourage them to spend their disposable income, estimated to be £249 billion a year. Separate research has shown that 75% of disabled people have had to leave a store or website, unable to go through with their purchase because of their disability.

Respondents state that retail is the most accessible business to purchase from, followed by banking and hospitality, but it still has a long way to go.

The research comes as businesses and organisations prepare for ‘Purple Tuesday’ on November, 12 a day which celebrates UK companies that are improving the customer experience for disabled shoppers.

Mike Adams OBE, chief executive of Purple, the disability organisation behind Purple Tuesday, says: “While many UK businesses and organisations are stepping up to the mark and making the changes needed to improve disabled customers’ experiences, far too many are not.

“This is a huge mistake, not least because by turning their backs on disabled shoppers, they are losing out on millions of pounds of revenue every year.

“It should simply not be the case that one in two disabled people struggle to make purchases online or in person. Small changes can make a big difference to the customer experience; we want to help organisations have the confidence to improve their services for disabled people.”

Disabled consumers told pollsters that inaccessible and unusable locations, poor customer service and a lack of understanding about disabilities were the main reasons they struggled to spend their money.

Over 1 in 5 said that hiring more disabled people would make them more likely to make a purchase and some stated that “wider aisles” or “lighter doors” would have the same effect. The findings support previous research, which shows that less than 10% of organisations have a dedicated strategy for targeting disabled customers.

The potential of the purple pound is clear – disabled people say they spend on average £163 on retail per month, £98 on travel, £69 on insurance, £78 on hospitality (such as at restaurants or on leisure activities) and £19 on gym or health activities.


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