You may not know it but Disabled people are worth £80 billion to the UK economy.

Any organisation that doesn’t take the economic impact of Disabled people seriously is loosing out.

A new report commissioned by the Business Department and Office for Disability Issues concludes that companies are losing 1 in 5 of their customers as a result of failing to meet the needs of disabled customers. Despite the 1996, 2005 Disability Discrimination Act and the recent introduction of The Equalities Act Disabled people are still being discriminated against because of:

  • inaccessible premises
  • inaccessible websites
  • poor customer service with lack of awareness, poor communication and lack of flexibility
  • inaccessible telephone systems
  • inaccessible printed information

This is more so as the Olympics and Paralympics approach. And is one of the main reasons for this report.

If you improve your website and make it accessible you will find an increase in traffic and business. One insurance business quoted in the report saw a 90% increase in on-line sales of insurance products following the upgrade of the website to make it fully accessible.

To Disabled and Deaf people everywhere it comes as no surprise to read these findings.

Just over a year ago I was interviewed on Radio Shropshire by Jim in the Morning where he asked me the question ‘have you ever been discriminated against for being Deaf’ I answered ‘No’.

It happened so much that I took it for granted and accepted it. A week later I had a really bad experience shopping and Pesky People was born.

The reality is

  • I can’t go to the cinema – unless the film is subtitled – I buy the DVD or watch it on the TV (if it is subtitled)
  • I can’t watch television unless the programme is subtitled
  • I can’t attend a conference or an event  – unless there is a sign language interpreter present and the organisers agree to provide one

My experiences include:

  • being ridiculed in a shop and shouted at – because I didn’t hear what was being said
  • being thrown out of a pub for challenging the attitude of a customer who said ‘you are not Deaf’ – all because I can speak.
  • I avoid going into shops that I want to –  because someone is smoking outside (I’m asthmatic).
  • I missed 20 minutes at a gig at South Bank Centre Meltown Festival earlier this year – because I was trying to get the headsets, I then missed the rest because the induction loop headset wasn’t working.

Work situations are no better:

  • I’ve had work stations desk dividers (to section off each desk) increased in height preventing me from lipreading work colleagues (unless I stood up) and then had complaints that I was aloof and not engaging with other staff
  • I’ve been asked by a Head of Department to to take minutes in a large meeting – I refused (how can anyone lipread 20 people and take notes at the same time?)
  • I witnessed staff refuse to learn basic sign language during Deaf Awareness training that all staff in the Department were told to attend – in order to improve communication with me
  • I’ve had complaints made that I wasn’t present in time at an event because they had booked a BSL interpreter ‘just for me’ – I wonder how many people are a couple of minutes late in the door to a conference?

Transport:

  • I’ve missed trains becuase platform announcements are over a tannoy – a common problem for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people
  • I’ve got on the wrong train because I couldn’t follow the instructions being mouthed through a glass screen in the ticket office and they refused to write it down for me (that never happens any more thankfully)
  • I once spent 4 hours at Wolverhampton train station trying to get home to Telford because they kept changing the platform – each time  with 2 minutes to spare. Because I couldn’t hear the announcement and couldn’t run quick enough to get to the right platform. I missed the train – again, and again. I was really upset by the time I got home.

The reality is every day I am discriminated against because of my Deafness and Disabilities. I end up questioning why does society consider me and other Deaf and Disabled people so worthless?

Pesky People started after my horrific experience at the hands of Orange Shop in Telford Shopping centre being mis-sold a mobile phone that failed to work with my Digital hearing aids – despite telling them my requirements. All the sales staff thought about was signing me up to another 2 year contract.

My experience included being surrounded by members of staff and the Manager shouting at me millimetres away from my face. I was mocked by other Orange staff on previous visits to sort out the problem and they refused to take the fault code issued by Orange Customer Services. The contract was cancelled – only after I was interviewed by Radio Shropshire. I am still waiting for a forma response to my letter of complaint from Orange – it’s been a year.

This is the reality for many Disabled and Deaf people – mostly we put up with it, shop else where and rarely complain.

I urge you to read 2012 Legacy for Disabled People: Inclusive and Accessible Business. Take note and if you run a business or have a website – make it accessible. It makes economic sense.