Disability 101: Targeting the disabled market
April 18, 2010
You run a retail establishment and you are looking to increase your business in this tough economic climate. You’re thinking outside the box and wondering if perhaps there is a market out there that you might have missed.
Yes, there is. In fact, there’s a market you haven’t identified that is twice as large as the teenage market. There is a market that has $220 billion in discretionary income. It’s the disability market.
One in five Americans, approximately 54 million people, have a disability, making it the largest minority group in the nation. Fifty percent of Americans 65 years and older have a disability. Twenty-five percent of customers have a disability or a close friend or relative who has a disability. If you haven’t made your business accessible to people with disabilities, you are missing out on a lot of customers with money to spend.
If you need to find out what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says about accessibility requirements for your business, call your local ADA Center at 1-800-949-4232. The National Network of ADA Centers provide technical assistance on the ADA. They can tell you how wide your door needs to be and if you need to put in a ramp or not.
However, the ADA Centers can also tell you how to modify your policies, practices and procedures to make your business accessible to people with disabilities. And they can tell you what you need to do to provide effective communication for your customers who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or have low vision.
I’m going to tell you about some things you can do to encourage your customers to spend more money at your business. This is stuff that is not included in the ADA, but it will make a huge difference for customers with disabilities. These are just good customer service considerations.
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My tip today is to provide a place to sit down in your retail establishment. Before I had to start using a wheelchair for my multiple sclerosis, I was able to walk some, but it absolutely exhausted me. Meanwhile, I had a teenage daughter (dollar signs should be flashing in your eyeballs about now). I used to take my teenage daughter clothes shopping. She would need time to look through the clothes and to try on the clothes. A significant amount of time.
While she was getting thoroughly involved with the clothing choices, I was looking around for somewhere to sit down. There was no way I could stand around and wait for her. I would drop. If I found a chair, I would sit down and my daughter was free to shop to her heart’s delight. If there was no chair, I told her we would have to shop in some other store.
But, you ask, how many people with multiple sclerosis actually come into my store? I don’t need to worry about that.
I would encourage you to think about how many people come into your store who have heart disease, lung problems or cancer. They also want somewhere to sit. How many seniors come to your store? They would like to have somewhere to sit as well. Even that husband or boyfriend who has come along with his wife or girlfriend would like a place to sit while she goes crazy in the clothes stacks.
Having a place to sit keeps people in your store longer. People who stay longer spend more money. Good customer service for people with disabilities is good customer service for everyone. More next time.
Sandy Lahmann, a previous Frisco resident now temporarily lost on the Front Range, can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.