Press release

Government concerned at 'shocking' evidence of the inaccessibility of the British high street to disabled people, despite their £200 billion spending power this Christmas

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Minister of State for Disabled People is urging shops and restaurants to improve their accessibility.

The Minister of State for Disabled People is urging shops and restaurants to improve their accessibility, as evidence has emerged that thousands of public places have barriers in place that make it difficult for disabled people to lead ordinary lives.

The news comes as Britain’s 12 million disabled people begin their Christmas shopping and head out to celebrate the festive season with their work colleagues and friends.

Accessibility experts DisabledGo visited every one of the 30,000 venues in person to assess them. They found a fifth of shops excluded wheelchair users, only a tiny proportion of restaurants and shops have hearing loops and three quarters of dining establishments do not cater for those with visual impairments. When they contacted leading chains direct to gather extra information only a tiny proportion responded, with only 4% of 105 national retailers replying.

Minister of State for Disabled People Mark Harper said:

Everyone deserves to be able to go Christmas shopping or enjoy a festive meal or drink with their friends or colleagues. People with disabilities are no exception. I’m calling on the retail and hospitality industry to look at what more they can do to better cater for disabled people.

This isn’t just about doing what’s right. Businesses are missing a trick by not doing more to tap into this market. A fifth of the British population has a disability and they and their households have a spending power of over £200 billion. Improving accessibility is a no-brainer.

The largest ever audit of the high street by DisabledGo spanned over 30,000 shops and restaurants nationwide.

Findings of the DisabledGo audit

High street retail outlets

In their findings of 27,000 high street retail outlets audited:

  • a fifth (20%) don’t provide access to wheelchair users because of steps and no ramps
  • less than a third of department stores have accessible changing rooms for wheelchair users
  • a third of department stores do not have an accessible toilet
  • two thirds (65%) of retail staff have not been given any disability awareness training
  • only 15% of retailers have hearing loops for shoppers with hearing impairments

In addition, 91% of the 105 leading high street retailers provide no information about the level of accessibility at their stores online.

Restaurants

In their findings of 3,716 restaurants audited:

  • 40% of restaurants have no accessible toilet
  • only 23% produce menus in large print for those with visual impairments
  • just 9% have hearing loops
  • nearly half (45%) of restaurant staff have not been given disability awareness training

In addition, 86% of the 57 leading UK restaurant chains provide no information about the level of accessibility at their stores online.

DisabledGo Chairman and former Director of M&S and B&Q, Barry Stevenson, said:

We are pleased that many retailers have invested significantly in improved accessibility in the last 10 years, but the majority are still not doing enough. It’s entirely unacceptable for disabled people, their family, friends and carers not to be able to access all high street shops and facilities.

Without the right staff training people with a whole range of disabilities, not just physical ones – but those with hearing, sight or learning difficulties – are just not going to get the service they should expect when out shopping this Christmas.

Disabled people are not asking the earth – just that management do what’s reasonable and think more about how they can help disabled customers better. And that includes better communication about their accessibility online. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune to do the right thing – and it could be the deciding factor for disabled customers between you and a competitor.

More information

Largest ever audit of the high street by accessibility experts DisabledGo spanned over 30,000 shops and restaurants nationwide.

Less than a third of department stores have accessible changing rooms, two thirds of retail staff have no training in how to help disabled customers and 40% of restaurants have no disabled toilet.

DisabledGo was established as a social enterprise, 14 years ago, by wheelchair user Dr. Gregory Burke, to provide independence and choice for disabled people. It is now the UK’s most trusted and widely-used source of accessibility information publishing guides to 125,000 plus venues across the UK and Republic of Ireland on www.disabledgo.com. This includes shops, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, railway stations, hotels, universities and hospitals. All venues featured have been visited and assessed in person from a pan disability perspective. Working in partnership with local authorities, universities, NHS Trusts and private sector organisations the website is completely free for anyone to use.

DisabledGo recently conducted a survey of 27,000 high street shops and 3,716 restaurants in the lead up to the busy Christmas period.

The findings are based on an audit conducted by DisabledGo’s trained surveyors, an ‘Accessibility Provision’ survey sent to leading retail and restaurants businesses and a review of relevant websites.

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