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In the United Kingdom almost one in five people are registered with a disability. But despite a staggering collective spending power of £274 billion, they are still a group of customers mostly overlooked in society, particularly in digital.

It’s true that the tide is currently turning with more and more organisations and companies are talking about accessibility and inclusion. Major brands like Unilever and Co-op are publicly demonstrating their commitment to inclusive design. However, there is still a failure in society as a whole to demonstrably create equal access and equal customer experience for people with disabilities.

We need to fix the customer experience, for everyone

A Recent report said that access to online shopping for people with visual impairments has gone backwards and it’s now actually harder for many to purchase online than it was it was previously.

There is massive revenue available, a moral obligation to support those with disabilities, and the huge potential for brands to place themselves front and centre in the eyes of those customers who are most excluded. Despite this, it seems even more surprising then that roughly only 10% of companies have a plan for improving their customer experience to include people with disabilities.

So where and how do we start?

As always, the simplest answer is with the user. To improve customer experience for all, you must start by involving all customers, including those with disabilities.

Carrying out automated accessibility audits is a great start but nothing beats real user testing to show you where your customer experience is broken. So many of us have gotten complacent and thought a perfect Google Lighthouse accessibility score, or a suite of “green” tests means a site is usable, but the truth can in fact be the opposite.

Let’s put this into practical terms. Consider a door

A door consists of a handle, hinges and wood (or some other material that modern doors can be made from e.g. glass), our automated tests could say that the door is perfect because it has all the fundamental components that make up a functioning door. But if the handle shape is round, people without a strong grip will be unable to open it. If the handle is too high, those in wheelchairs will be unable to reach it. If the door is glass people with low vision may not even be able to see it.

None of us would ever install a door to our physical spaces that 20% of our customers (or staff) couldn’t use to enter the building, so why then are creating digital experiences that 20% of our users may not be able to access?

At the end of the day customer experience is changing. As our population gets older, more and more of your customers will face the challenges of disabilities. You need to be involving people with disabilities now, to help give you solutions to their exclusion problems. This, in turn, should help protect you in the future. 

So, on Purple Tuesday, a day specifically designed to improve customer experience for people with disabilities all year round, why not make the first steps to those changes? You have nothing to lose. Nothing that is except for revenue, brand reputation and an advantage over your competitors and peers.

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