SMEs need support in providing accessible businesses » SMEInsider

SMEs need support in providing accessible businesses

Barclays has launched a website for SMEs to give advice on how they can better cater for disabled customers.

According to the research from the bank, UK small and medium-sized businesses are failing to provide even basic facilities to support customers with disabilities, due to a lack of knowledge about how to do so.


Train to retain the purple pound

The new website provides firms with a range of resources to boost their expertise and confidence in providing more accessible products and services. These include training for staff and advice on creating inclusive businesses.

The research found that 90 per cent of SME owners whose businesses span more than one floor do not have a loft. 80 per cent said their products and services are not accessible to all customers, such as those with mobility problems or impaired sight.


Additional findings include:

  • 81 per cent don’t have disabled parking spaces
  • 74 per cent don’t have a ramp
  • 74 per cent don’t have accessible toilets
  • Only 10 per cent provide written communications in braille
  • 10 per cent have audio communications for people who are deaf of hearing impaired
  • One third have signs that are easy to read, i.e., in large type or high contrast.

By failing to adequately serve disabled customers, not only could business owners be missing out on a portion of the estimated £212 billion in spending power that disabled people have, but they are also potentially violating the law, since some of these types of provisions are required by the Equality Act 2010.

Barriers that were cited in making SMEs more accessible include not knowing what the benefit would be and not knowing where to start. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) said doing so would be too expensive, while 8 per cent said it would be too much hassle.


Many want to adapt

Encouragingly, though, more than three quarters said they would be prepared to become more accessible for customers with disabilities if they had the right advice and support.

Adam Rowse, head of business banking at Barclays, said: “We want to help businesses become more confident on the topic of disability. The research demonstrates a large gap exists in educating and equipping businesses with the right tools and guidance on accessibility and in catering for disabled customers.

“It also shows the business SMEs could be turning away, simply by not knowing where to start. Living in a diverse society, the business that caters for the needs of all customers will be the one not only most likely survive, but to flourish.”

Minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, added: “Supporting disabled people into work, improving accessibility and unlocking the potential of the purple pound are all priorities for this government.

“That’s why it’s great to see businesses like Barclays creating shared resources that will help to increase understanding and support among employers and service providers, ultimately creating more accessible opportunities for disabled people.”