One million New Zealanders (24% of us) are currently living with a disability or access need. That equates to a huge market of customers and talent worthy of every business owner's attention. The case for making your products or services more accessible is compelling for business success and to contribute to a more inclusive Aotearoa.
It's a common misconception that achieving accessibility is too expensive for small businesses. However, some of the biggest impacts can be made with relative ease and cost-efficiency. At the top of the list are being welcoming, increasing accessibility to your website’s information and making it easy for people to be on your premises. By considering these areas, you’ll be on your way to opening up your business to another 24% of the population.
Disability is often not obvious and is more common than many people think. Most organisations already have disabled people in their team, as customers or among their suppliers. A disability may be visible or hidden, permanent or temporary. It could have a minor or major impact on a person's life. Disabilities that affect people’s access needs can be physical, sensory, intellectual and mental health-related. No two people are the same, and no two people with the same disability experience it in the same way.
Unlock new sources of talent
One in five working-age New Zealanders is disabled, so improving accessibility opens up your hiring options and gives you access to a bigger selection of talent. As employees, people with a disability generally take fewer days off, take less sick leave, are more loyal, and stay in jobs longer than other workers.
Thanks to technology, most disabled people have very few different needs to do their jobs. And there is also some funding available through Employment New Zealand.
Begin with good customer service
A genuine welcome can make it much easier for customers and staff with access needs to participate. This means building a culture of empathy within your team, starting with an organisation-wide commitment to inclusivity. Make this clear as soon as you onboard new staff.
You can also help your team to grow their understanding of the needs of access customers. Often, simple things can make a big difference. For example, reminding your staff to face customers directly and to speak clearly. You can also find helpful resources from groups such as Deaf Aotearoa.
Don't forget digital access
Making your website accessible gives a great impression to anyone who does research before they purchase, and that’s most people! An accessible website is simple with a clear, high contrast design and simple English.
Make sure people can shop online without too many stages or clicks. Include clear captions and chat options, and avoid complications such as unlabelled images, pdfs or downloads. More accessible content will also help your site perform better with search engines. You can find further simple tips for improving your accessibility online from MBIE.
Physical accessibility can start simple
Wherever you are on your businesses accessibility journey, making a start can make a big difference. Consider your layout. How easy is it to move around for those with a companion, walking cane or baby stroller? Scan the space with your senses. Hearing or processing conversation is difficult for many people when there's music in the background, especially if it has lyrics. Flashing lights and confusing mirrors can also make it hard for people to focus on doing business with you.
Organisations such as BeLab can audit the accessibility of your business place. An audit can identify priorities for making improvements and help you create a plan.
At Business Mentors, our mission is to help businesses thrive, and inclusivity plays an important role in this. If you'd like to understand more about different markets, being a good employer or growing your business, then apply for a Business Mentor today. Our service is all about giving you access to the insights and wisdom that experienced people can share.