Embracing disability awareness can positively impact the development of an SME in many ways. Here, Chris Jay, pictured above, executive chairman of the disability awareness charity, Enable Me, exlains why
- Expanding your market
It may shock you to learn, that ignoring the needs of people with disabilities as a potential customer base, costs UK businesses around £1.8 billion per month. This is largely due to a lack of awareness and can be changed by making a few minor adjustments to the way your business operates. By understanding and removing your organisation’s barriers, implementing staff training, and making a few physical and technological adjustments – your business will certainly begin to appeal to those spending the purple pound.
- Customer and employee loyalty
Further to increasing your customer appeal, being a disability aware business will also mean that loyalty is enhanced- by both the customers you target and the staff you employ. People with disabilities are typically loyal to inclusive organisations, so if your company has made clear adjustments, both as an employer and a business, customers will return and staff retention will inevitably improve.
- Improving publicity
Being an inclusive organisation will enhance your brand and bring many positive PR opportunities, allowing you benefit from openly displaying your dedication to disability awareness. However, on the other hand, negative publicity due to a customer service blunder can have catastrophic effects, resulting in negative publicity and huge damage to your brand, especially if your business relies on good customer service.
- Accessing a new talent pool
Becoming an inclusive organisation will inevitably allow you to access a whole new pool of talent. When you consider that 18% of working age adults in the UK are disabled, it makes sense that your business appeals to such a vast portion of the population.
Then there is staff retention. Given that the loss of output and the logistics of the recruitment process can cost as much £30k, poor staff retention can undoubtedly have a significant impact on a business. Not only will an inclusive workplace allow you to appeal to a wider number of higher calibre candidates, it will also mean you are more likely to retain staff members with a disability, as your business provides an empathetic, understanding and fully inclusive working environment.
- Improving understanding, morale and productivity
Currently 13.3 million people in the UK have a disability, and vast numbers of people have what are known as ‘hidden disabilities’ including sensory disabilities, a range of mental health conditions, epilepsy, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cystic fibrosis – to mention just a few. So, it could well be that as a company, you already employ someone with a disability, that you don’t even know about.
Furthermore, it is also worth considering that disability is something that can occur – in fact, only 17% of people are actually born with a disability, 83% acquire it later in life. In total, 780,000 people become disabled every year, therefore it is impossible to think that disability won’t ever affect your business.
Being an inclusive organisation will allow the people who work for you to feel comfortable in disclosing a disability- as well as generally make them a more understanding and empathetic workforce.
Any staff with disabilities – both seen and unseen – will be more likely to remain with the organisation if the company’s team has strong awareness, and people with disabilities will also have an enhanced opportunity to fulfil their potential, gaining a closer understanding of their goals and aspirations, being more productive, more efficient and generally happier staff members.