UK business is missing out on £420 million a week by ignoring disabled people - AbodeAbode

UK business is missing out on £420 million a week by ignoring disabled people

December 17, 2017

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A disability could happen to any one of us.

Almost 1 in 5 people (19%) in the UK are disabled and only 17% were born with their disabilities. The majority of these people acquired their disability later in life. (Papworth, 2016). This equates to a large and growing percentage of our UK population.

The theme was transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society for this year’s UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In 2015, a collective global pledge was made by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to ensure “no-one will be left behind”, this included persons with disabilities.

This is all powerful stuff, but pledges alone can’t make this transformation. But what could help is a more positive response to persons with disabilities by the housing market, employment market, and consumer markets.

Employment market

According to Scope, disabled people have made huge progress in the workplace over the last 20 years, but there are still many barriers to entry. This organisation is doing great work to break down these barriers and change the attitudes of employers.

Their research found that a 5% rise in the employment rate among disabled people would bring an increase in GDP of £23 billion, and gains to the Exchequer of £6 billion by 2030. So why are disabled people still twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people?

“Often, employers believe that disabled people have little to offer, and will be expensive and risky to hire. The reality is very different. On average, disabled people are just as productive as non-disabled people, have less time off sick, have fewer workplace accidents and stay in their jobs longer. They also offer inside intelligence in how to tap into the ‘purple pound’ – the estimated £249 billion that disabled people spend in the UK every year.

Usually needing no, or only minor adjustments, disabled employees can be a huge asset to an organisation, often bringing additional skills such as creativity, problem-solving and determination with them.” Jane Hatton, Founder/Director of Evenbreak


Housing Market


At Abode Impact we believe there is a clear market for accessible homes, particularly for wheelchair users.

There are 1.8 million disabled people with identified housing needs. Add to this the growing population of those with disabilities and older people, and you begin to see the need to design homes with accessibility in mind. We are not talking about social housing here, but the private rented sector and home ownership. It’s time for home builders and property investors to take notice of the fact that 700,000 households who require accessibility features in their homes are in the top half of the income distribution (Habinteg, Papworth Trust, 2016).

Consumer market

Three quarters of disabled people have left a shop or business because of poor disability awareness or understanding. By failing to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, businesses could be missing out on a share of £420 million in revenue each week*.

The more businesses think about how they can best serve disabled consumers, the greater the opportunity to increase choice and competition for this group when making purchases.” (*Extra Costs Commission/Scope, 2016)

The market is ripe for innovative businesses to address the daily challenges disabled people face. Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley, two childhood friends with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, set up Accomable out of a frustration at the difficulty of finding accessible places to stay as tourists. Their business was recently bought by AirBnB – who clearly saw the market potential of adding this profitable offering to their platform.

If all these markets work better for persons with disabilities, the extra costs faced by disabled people and the state could be reduced drastically. Then no-one gets left behind.

Eleanor Bowden, CEO of Abode Impact

Twitter @BowdenEleanor 


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