10 million disabled people live in the UK with a combined annual spending power in excess of £80 billion - the Blue Pound. Nearly three-quarters (73%) are heads of households and 48% are principal shoppers.*
Business opportunities are being lost to secure the Blue Pound because clients and agencies are failing to understand and address their needs, resulting in a 'walk away pound'.
A survey of the opinions and shopping habits of disabled customers by Business Disability Forum and Disability Rights UK people found that 83% of disabled people had 'walked away' from making a purchase, unable or unwilling to do so - 'the Walk Away Pound'. What emerged was a picture of informed consumers who will reward good customer service and punish providers who don't make any effort to meet their needs. Amongst the cited factors that discouraged disabled consumers from spending were poorly designed products, inaccessible premises, and poor or inappropriate communications including inaccessible websites and printed information.
Only 9% of respondents agree that clients ask for all designs to be accessible to people with disabilities. Fewer than a quarter (21.9%) agree that clients ask for website designs to be accessible to people with disabilities. Fewer than half (45.7%) agree that they understand how to design in a way that improves accessibility for people with disabilities.
The European Commission proposes that all public sector organisations will be required to ensure that disabled users of their websites have the same access to certain content and services as other internet users by the end of 2015.** This offers market opportunity for designers who understand accessibility.
* Business Disability Forum website. Business Disability Forum and the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (now Disability Rights UK) Survey 2006.
Lead author of Design Industry Voices report and MD, Fairley & Associates