According to the charity Scope, there are just over fourteen million disabled people in the UK, of which just over four million are in work.
Despite its size, the needs of the disabled demographic weren’t widely considered until quite recently, but this is a sizeable group of people with diverse and particular needs, and both government bodies and private businesses are finally awakening to a cultural shift toward accommodating everyone.
So how, exactly, can this be done?
Not all disabilities are obvious. Fortunately, there’s a way for disabled people to signal to those around them that they might require special assistance: the sunflower lanyard. It’s a device that’s worn voluntarily by disabled people, which is being officially recognised by businesses looking to consciously make life easier for the disabled. Late last year, Marks and Spencer instructed its 80,000 instore staff to recognise the lanyard, and Sainsburys followed suit soon after.
Running the staff of an entire café through the basics of sign language is a considerable expense – but Starbucks have done this in stores in the US, the UK, and, most recently, in Japan. In the UK, it’s the Starbucks in Canary Wharf where instruction in British Sign Language is provided. This allows visitors to the stores to place orders without saying a word! By providing this service, retailers across the country can make their services more accessible.
Like everyone else, disabled people need to be able to get from one place to another. But they’re impeded from doing so by the design of the modern car. If you have the use of only one arm or leg, then you may find yourself unable to drive. This, in turn, can have knock-on negative consequences. In fact, a lack of access to transport might partly explain why disabled people are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people, according to government statistics.
Businesses like Allied Mobility aim to address this by providing vehicles which are customised to cater to disabled drivers. There’s no awkward scramble to get from the chair into the driver’s seat; instead, a disabled driver can simply ride right up behind the wheel.
Opportunities for adult learning for disabled people can be extremely limited. There might not be enough people with particular needs in a given area to make a classroom experience viable. But via online platforms, groups of disabled people can be brought together for online learning. The burgeoning popularity of platforms like Zoom might make this even simpler.