Announcing the Government’s new Accessible Britain Challenge, disability minister Mike Harper said thousands of high street businesses could be turning away the custom of 1 in 5 people by not attracting disabled people.
Mr Harper said: “We want businesses up and down our high streets to realise they’re excluding more than 12 million customers and their families if they fail to cater for disabled people. That’s the equivalent to the populations of London, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Cardiff and Manchester combined.
“It’s not just about fairness, it makes good business sense to be accessible.”
The Minister has written to more than 200 of Britain’s biggest businesses and more than 80 trade organisations with a combined 420,000 members, as part of the Challenge.
But the Livability charity says Government should lead by example and look again at its own policies towards disabled people.
The charity’s chief executive Dave Webber said: “Disabled people have a great deal to contribute to society – not just in economic terms.
“But the reality is that too often they face real barriers when they try to fully participating in public life and they are still some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society.
“Recent Government policies, especially reforms to disability benefits, have made it more difficult for disabled people to fully participate in society and have had a negative effect on their independence.
“Disabled people have also often been unfairly portrayed as a ‘burden’ in parts of the media, which can have a detrimental effect on the general public’s perception of them.
“The Government challenges and encourages various parts of the community such as local businesses, to be more inclusive towards disabled people but they also have a responsibility to lead by example.
“We want to see this worthwhile Challenge backed by a real commitment by Government to introduce policies and reforms which would help disabled people to live fully active lives.”
Research from the Department for Work and Pensions has shown disabled people find shopping the most difficult experience for accessibility, followed by going to the cinema, theatre and concerts.
Drinking and eating out at pubs and restaurants was third on the list.
The research coincides with the release of a new ‘purple pound’ figure from DWP showing that households with a disabled person have a combined income of £212 billion after housing costs.
Businesses are required by law to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
The Government say there are many easy and low-cost ways to improve accessibility including:
Clearing clutter from corridors and aisles.
Printing menus, leaflets and brochures in at least 12 point font, 14 point is ideal and being prepared to do larger print if requested.
Training staff so they are confident in offering assistance when requested, for example, reading a menu out loud or writing down a price.
Provide parking for disabled customers or make sure staff know where the nearest parking is located.
There are 12.2 million disabled people in the UK.