Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum
Thank you to everyone who attended our conference last month “Are you being served? Welcoming disabled consumers” (sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group).
We were especially happy that it could take place in a hybrid format (thank you to the Royal Horticultural Society for hosting), so thank you whether it was online or face to face – it was great to see so many people in person.
Here’s a summary of a packed and eventful day with topics covered as wide-ranging as accessible bras and condoms.
We began the day with Mark Hodgkinson from Scope and BDF’s Head of Policy, Angela Matthews discussing the extra costs that disabled people face in their daily lives – from rising fuel costs to facing premiums on product and services that others take for granted to live our daily lives.
Too often, disabled people face limited choice, increased costs, or even difficulty finding the goods and services they want and need. The need for better access to services and products has never been more urgent. With living costs rising for all of us, it is more important than ever that disabled consumers have the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions and to get the best deals possible.
New disabled consumer research
We were excited to launch our new consumer research – “What disabled consumers choose to buy and why”, supported by our Partner Microsoft, in association with Open Inclusion – which looks at how disabled consumers make pre-purchase choices, where they look for information and makes recommendations for businesses.
Bela Gor and Christine Hemphill discussed how our research shows that there is plenty of good practice out there, but it can be patchy, and varies from sector to sector. And that needs to change if businesses are both to meet the needs of customers and attract the spending power of a global market estimated to be the size of China.
My favourite example from our research was a customer with sight loss who wanted to know if the hair straighteners she was thinking of buying online made a noise to let her know they had reached the correct temperature. Obvious when you think about it, but not necessarily obvious to a sighted product designer or copywriter. On calling the store (John Lewis) she was advised that they would take them out of the box, plug them in and check for her. The customer chose to go to the store itself to make her purchase – now that’s inclusive customer service and a very happy customer.
You can read the full findings of ‘What disabled consumers choose to buy and why’, including seven sector specific reports, findings, and recommendations, on our website. Please do share it on socials using the hashtag #BDFDisabledConsumerChoice.
Of course, great customer service is not just needed in person but online too – in fact it is increasingly necessary online. BDF Head of Legal and Content, Bela Gor spoke to Gavin Neate of WelcoME, Paul Duncan of Amazon and football fan Jonathan Attenborough to explore what makes a truly great digital or online customer experience. Jon talked about his experiences as a Dundee United fan and how experiences have differed over the years, taking in accessible entrances and options.
After lunch, we heard from Access Auditor Ian Streets on what makes a truly inclusive environment with some thought provoking and graphic examples from packaging to entryways.
My conversation with Tim Fallowfield (Sainsbury’s) and Trudie Hills (Lloyds Banking Group) looked at how organisations can hire, support, and empower customer facing teams to provide brilliant service to everyone and how that links into wider organisational culture and values.
And we finished with a fascinating discussion with myself, Rick Williams, Lucy Ruck (BDF), Joanne Austin (HSBC) and Victoria Jenkins from Unhidden Clothing on body language, non-visual cues and the importance of appearance, identity, fashion and accessible and inclusive clothing, with a strong focus on shoes and a nod to underwear.
I’d once again like to thank everyone who attended the conference.
(Photography by Paul Demuth, Demuth Photography 2022)
- BDF Members and Partners can view the sessions of the whole conference on the Knowledge Hub or if you, highlights of the event are available to all. If you’d like to become a BDF Member or Partner, find out more
- We’ve recently launched a brand new online recruitment toolkit thanks to sponsorship from our Member Oliver James, available to all Members and Partners on our Knowledge Hub.
- Our new podcast and webisode series “If you don’t mind me asking?” is now available. Watch the trailer.