Kuehne June 2019

Be Disability Aware

Take Stock spoke to Business Disability Forum (BDF) about ways that businesses can raise their disability awareness. Here, Daniel Wiles, disability consultant at BDF tells us how…

One of the most important things to remember is that to treat people fairly you might need to treat them differently. This means making changes for people to remove barriers that they encounter. These changes are often called ‘adjustments’. The Equality Act 2010 prohibits the discrimination of people on the basis of disability. However, BDF encourages businesses to improve their services not just because it’s the lawful and ethical thing to do, but also because of the significant business imperative for those companies that get it right.

Remove the barriers
Often, a simple adjustment, change or extra thought by staff can help remove a barrier for a disabled customer.
• For groups – ensure that your menu boards and signage do not block pathways inside and outside of your business, have your menu printed in large print (even if it is just a few copies) and look into the possibility of having a disabled toilet fitted on the ground floor.
• Individuals – open doors, offer to read the menu out loud and allow additional time to place an order or process information.

Train staff
As a starting point, businesses should ensure their customer-facing staff are skilled and confident when interacting with customers with different disabilities; not just visible disabilities such as mobility and visual impairments, non-visible disabilities such as dementia and mental health conditions.
• Training courses – employees can be up skilled through a variety of different training methods. BDF provides tailored training that can be undertaken online to suit the requirements of the trainee. Most customer facing disability awareness training takes a half day to complete. Use BDF’s Welcoming Disabled Customers guide as a reference for employers.
• Make someone responsible – a manager or senior team member should be given the responsibility for disability, which will mean all staff will have someone to turn to when they are unsure of how to manage a situation. That way, if any assistance is required they can be the main contact. The team champion should also be given the responsibility of briefing and training other staff.
• Induction – whether a member of staff is permanent or temporary the level of customer service and awareness of disability should be consistent. Therefore, during each staff induction include all relevant information and guidance on disability awareness.
• Don’t ignore a disabled customer – if you can see someone needs assistance or help, or if they approach you requesting the latter, be polite and see how you can help, If you are too inexperienced to help tell them you’ll find someone who can help – please don’t ignore them.

The Walkaway Pound
In June 2015, BDF and the Extra Costs Commission released a report analysing the consumer preferences of disabled customers. The report, Walkaway Pound, found that 75% of disabled customers had walked away from a business at a cost of £1.8bn every month. It also highlighted that 3.6 million disabled people and their families had left a restaurant, pub or club because of poor disability awareness costing the industry £147.8m each month.

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