Meeting the needs of disabled and older customers

There are two things driving the need to provide inclusive customer service:

The carrot, which we prefer:

  • the desire to win more customers and do more business by ensuring that no-one is excluded

or the stick:

  • The Equality Act 2010 which harmonises and replaces previous legislation (such as the Race RelationsAct 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2005). A challenge by a customer who feels that they have been discriminated against could end a business up in court, resulting in both bad publicity and a costly fine.

Furthermore the Baby Boomer generation is rapidly aging. 50% of the population will be over 50 in 2020.  As the demographics change, so will the incidence of disability, taking the number of disabled people in the UK to well over the current estimate of 11 million. Whilst Baby Boomers won’t necessarily identify themselves as being disabled, their access needs are changing, and as a result they will benefit more and more from inclusive design.

There still appears to be a huge gap in knowledge and understanding about the requirements of disabled and older customers and yet sometimes it is only minor tweaks that are needed to get it right.

There is a strong business case for ensuring that disabled and older people can access your goods, facilities and services:

  • The over 50s now form a significant proportion of many companies’ customer base and an important economic power
  • Baby Boomers collectively own close to £500bn of the UK's assets
  • Over 50s account for 40% of consumer spending, 60% of total savings and 80% of UK wealth
  • The value of the disabled £ is estimated at £80billion

The Leonard Cheshire Disability and Ipsos MORI survey also examined the business case for improving access – looking at the potential benefits for businesses in becoming more accessible, and the potential risks of failing to do so:

  • 79% of disabled people would tell their friends and family if they felt a shop had discriminated against them because of their disability, and 62% would advise their friends and family not to use that shop (Ipsos MORI for Leonard Cheshire Disability 2010)
  • 40% of disabled people could identify a difficult experience whilst accessing goods and services in the past 12 months.
  • 28% of people aged 65+ have difficulties with their eyesight (General Household Survey ONS, 2001)
  • 55% of people aged 60+ are deaf or hard of hearing, equating to 7.6 million people (RNID)
  • The number of people with impairments which affect their use of the telephone is increasing as the population ages and many have difficulties with hearing, vision, memory and dexterity, which affect their use of the telephone (Ofcom)
  • 82% of disabled customers in the UK took their business to a more accessible competitor (Employers Forum on Disability Survey)