If your business is not disability-friendly, you may be missing out on customers. However, accessibility adaptations can be costly. And most businesses don’t have the money spare to pay for adaptations.

In this article, we are going to outline the importance of having a disability-friendly business and explain how you can get funding to make positive changes to your business.

Does My Business Need To Be Disability Friendly?

As per the Equality Act 2010, your business should not discriminate against anyone that is disabled or physically impaired. In addition, the Disability Discrimination act of 1995 states that all public buildings must be accessible to wheelchair users.

Aside from adhering to government regulations, having a disability-friendly business is important. It demonstrates that you are a business that does not discriminate. Plus, it increases the chance of attracting disabled customers and service users.

The spending power of disabled people in the UK is estimated to be worth £274 billion per year – this is known as the Purple Pound.

In Lancashire, it is estimated that there are 6,279 adults aged 18-64 with a serious personal care disability, 28,599 adults with a moderate personal care disability and 72,271 adults aged 65+ who need help with at least one personal care activity.

With these numbers in mind, it is safe to assume that there are thousands of people living with a disability in the Rossendale Valley. Unfortunately, studies show that 3 out of every 4 disabled people in the UK have walked away from a business because of poor disability access or customer service.

If your Rossendale Valley business isn’t accessible, you may be missing out on valuable customers – and therefore missing out on the Purple Pound.

In the UK, it is estimated that restaurants, pubs and clubs miss out on £103 million per month due to lack of accessibility. Similarly, high street shops miss out on £267 million and supermarkets miss out on £501 million.

Typical Accessility Adaptions

There are some simple and affordable adjustments you can make to improve accessibility within your business.

For example, you can remove obstructions and ensure there is a wide and clear walkway so wheelchair users and those with mobility aids can safely and seamlessly manoeuvre around your premises. You should also ensure the entry and exit are free from obstruction.

If you have steps externally or internally, you could add grab rails to the walls and add a ramp to make it easier for those with mobility issues to use the steps.

If your business premise includes a car park and it is your responsibility to provide safe customer parking, you should reserve at least one or two parking spaces for disabled customers.

These should be the spaces closest to the door. Ensure each parking spot has plenty of space and is well sign-posted.

Allowing service animals is also a simple way to attract and welcome disabled customers. Service dogs are used for people with physical disabilities, hearing impairments, visual impairments, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease and many more disabilities.

You could also provide accessible print materials, such as signage, menus, price lists and business cards with Braille on for those who are visually impaired.

Other accessibility adaptations can be costly but are very important. For example, if you provide a public customer toilet, this should be accessible to those with disabilities, including people with profound disabilities.

A Changing Places toilet is often the best option as this has space and equipment, including a hoist, to suit the needs of disabled people and their carers. A Changing Places toilet can be installed in an existing bathroom providing there is space. Alternatively, modular Changing Places toilets are available.

Installing automatic doors is also a great way to make your business disability-friendly. You could also provide staff training to raise awareness and improve customer service for disabled customers.

Types of Funding Available To Make Your Business Disability-Friendly

There may not be funding specifically for making accessible changes to your business, but there is a range of government grants available to make improvements to your business.

Trusts operating public buildings and not for profit organisations may find funding easier to obtain. But the UK government regularly introduces schemes that provide funding for businesses, especially small businesses. The government grants and support directory is a good place to start.

Or if you would like to find out about potential funding in the Rossendale area, get in touch with the local council and ask them about business grants available.

For example, if you wanted funding to pay for an accessible Changing Places toilet, the local council could apply for Section 106 funding, especially if there is a need for the toilet within the community.

Alternatively, you could self-fund accessibility adaptations by raising money and acquiring donations. You may receive help from charitable organisations.