'Small changes can have huge impact on disabled customers'

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Accessibility agenda: pubs have been urged to look at how they can improve customer experience (image: Cjc13, Wikimedia Commons)
Accessibility agenda: pubs have been urged to look at how they can improve customer experience (image: Cjc13, Wikimedia Commons)

Related tags: Disability

Pubs have been encouraged to identify which areas of their businesses they can improve to give disabled customers a better experience ahead of Purple Tuesday.

Businesses are encouraged to improve customer experience for disabled people and their families on Purple Tuesday (12 November 2019).

Mike Adams, chief executive of the initiative, told The Morning Advertiser​: “We are asking organisations who participate to identify one commitment that they could do to improve the customer experience which they can then do 365 days a year.”

Known as the ‘purple pound’, the consumer spending power of disabled people and their families is worth £249bn to the UK economy.

However, less than 10% of businesses have a targeted plan to have a relationship with their disabled customers, Adams explained.

Pubs can make quick, free or low-cost actions to improve accessibility to their sites and ensure they are not deterring any potential customers.

For example, eight out of 10 disabled people in the UK have hidden disabilities and by training staff to say hello and goodbye in British Sign Language and placing inclusive signage on accessible toilets, they can provide a better experience.

These changes are simple to do and can be done for no cost at all, for example by using Not Every Disability is Visible signage from charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK and training staff in BSL via Youtube videos.

Another change would be to ensure card machines are portable and not stuck to a high level, which Adams described as a “bug-bear of mine” given that many people predominantly pay by card over cash. 

Fear of offence

Purple Tuesday is tomorrow (12 November 2019)
Purple Tuesday is tomorrow (12 November 2019)

“Small changes can have a huge impact for a lot of people,” Adams explained.

He said: “The biggest issue we have found is that even in 2019 for staff there is this fear of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing, language and etiquette which would unintentionally offend a disabled person.

“So what staff tend to do is take the default position and swerve the conversation all together, so for a lot of disabled people like me who have a visible disability you walk into a pub and rather than being welcomed you are ignored.”

Adams’ biggest piece of advice to pub employers was to train their staff to have confidence to ask customers if they need any help. 

He explained: “99 times out of 100, people will take those words in the context in which they are given and if they have a disability and need additional things they will tell you.

“You don’t need to make assumptions, and second guess what they may or may not need.”

Purple pound

One pub that has managed to boost its profits after focusing on the opportunities it was missing by not catering to the ‘purple pound’ is The White Horse, Dorking.

The Bespoke Hotels-site carried out a £4m renovation in order to make hotel bedrooms which were accessible to disabled customers, whether travelling with carers or alone.

Refurbishments focused on details from carpet thicknesses which would allow wheelchair wheels to move freely in addition to low furniture heights.

The renovated rooms had an occupancy of 74% over the past year, which meant they delivered an additional revenue of £6,900 in comparison to other rooms. 

Pubs that want to improve their accessibility can learn more by visiting the Purple Tuesday website and downloading its resources.

Related topics: Training

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