Disabled people are the third-largest economic group globally opens in new window – collectively more economically powerful than G7 nations such as Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
In the UK, businesses lose approximately £2bn each month opens in new window by ignoring the needs of disabled people – the so-called ‘Purple Pound’.
Ensuring that products and services are as accessible and inclusive as possible can make sound business sense, allowing your business to attract a wider pool of customers.
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What is inclusive design?
Inclusive design means designing for all needs. It “ensures that places and experiences are open to all people, regardless of age, disability, and background,” according to the Business Disability Forum opens in new window.
Inclusive products and services work better for everyone.
“Inclusively designed products and services that have edge users in mind can reach and benefit up to four times the size of the intended audience,” according to a report by the Centre for Inclusive Design opens in new window.
Examples of inclusive design products and services
Countless everyday products began life as designs for disabled people, including the typewriter, subtitles, and audiobooks.
Innovation continues across sectors with retailers are developing more accessible packaging, for example.
In 2021, Procter and Gamble (P&G) added an Easy Open lid opens in new window to its Olay North America line.
With its winged cap, extra-grip raised lid, Braille text, and a high-contrast product label, the product design considers users with dexterity issues, limb differences, joint pain, and vision impairments.
It isn’t the first example from P&G, which previously added tactile indicators to the tops of bottles denoting the difference between shampoo and conditioner.
The innovation benefits visually impaired people and anyone fumbling for the conditioner bottle with shampoo in their eyes.
The business benefits of inclusive design
With inclusive design gaining traction across various industries, what are the main benefits for a start-up to place inclusive design at the heart of their new venture?
1. Access bigger ‘hidden’ markets
Whether a product or a service, inclusive design means you can capitalise on the purple and grey markets, whose spending power shouldn’t be underestimated.
There’s also the grey pound to consider. Some 42% of pension aged adults are disabled compared to 21% of people who are of working age opens in new window.
Spending by older people is forecast to soar over the next decade, says the International Longevity Centre (ILC), which predicts the average spend by older consumers will rise from on average 54% (£319 billion) of total consumer spending to 63% (£550 billion in 2040) opens in new window.
2. Drive more online sales
The Click-Away Pound survey opens in new window highlights the importance of inclusive website design.
It found that 69% of disabled people with access needs clicked away from websites with barriers, equating to lost revenue of £17.1 billion.
The same survey shows increasing use of assistive technology (AT), with the proportion of people using screen magnification, for example, rising to 27% in 2019 from 14% in 2016.
In a digital world, it’s vital that websites embrace accessibility.
The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) opens in new window publishes Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which informs businesses on how to build accessibly.
3. Boost business performance
Embracing inclusive design can “pave the way for a larger cultural shift… toward more productive and innovative organisational cultures,” says Accenture’s report The Accessibility Advantage opens in new window.
A separate Accenture report opens in new window found that organisations that embrace diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) are four times more likely to have total shareholder returns that outperform their peers and twice as likely to have higher shareholder returns.
4. Increase customer loyalty
A positive customer experience can also boost customer loyalty and retention.
Research found opens in new window that 94 per cent of consumers are loyal to brands that deliver a consistently good customer experience, and 73 per cent are loyal because of good customer service.
Good customer service can be underpinned by clear, accessible communication and fewer barriers to meeting a customer’s needs.
5. Less competition
While inclusive design is making inroads into consumer products and services, there are still areas that haven’t been addressed.
For agile start-ups, spotting a usability gap in the market and creating a product that is more accessible can provide a competitive advantage and accelerate business success.
6. Brand difference
Consumers look to brand values and ethics as part of their purchasing decisions.
Demonstrating your social credentials, such as marketing your work to create inclusive products, can be a brand differentiator that sets you apart from competitors.
How to start thinking about inclusive design and services
Designing for extreme needs means you’ll create a product that works better for everyone.
“Good design should reflect the diversity of people who use it and not impose barriers of any kind,” says the UK’s Design Council opens in new window.
You could consider involving potential product or service users early in the development cycle to identify where things aren’t working – like the colour contrast being off or buttons being hard to use – which can be adjusted before products enter manufacturing.
“The ability to understand a diverse customer experience is core to most commercial organisations,” said Christine Hemphill, Managing Director of Open Inclusion, which offers inclusive customers insight accessibility conference TechShare Pro opens in new window.
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Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.