Buyers with disabilities are some of the most undervalued sectors of the economy, especially in Australia. With a market value of $186 billion in Australia alone and a global spending power of Trillions, businesses should recognise the immense potential this market holds.
Businesses need to understand the needs and preferences of people with disabilities, as catering to them can unlock opportunities and foster inclusivity and accessibility while also offering tremendous economic value. Furthermore, the data tells us that the average disabled consumer looks nothing like the media stereotypes would have you believe (bedridden, unmotivated and lying around all day in pyjamas). Although I have certainly done that at times.
In fact, many are the primary decision-makers, own their own home, have families, have a tertiary education and more. If our content creators don't know these sorts of things, they will continue to not see a need to cast disabled talent in 'everyday' roles or write them into scripts in a way that reflects our often ordinary lives.
There's not a 'one size fits all' approach to inclusion
The disability community is so diverse, but generally speaking, people with disabilities want retailers to recognise their worth as consumers and understand how woefully unmet their needs currently are.
Sometimes those needs may be around accessibility into a brick-and-mortar store or on a website and other digital platforms. Other times it may be around representation and not seeing or hearing anyone from the disability community in that company's content. In all examples, it sends a message to the disabled consumer that our brand or business doesn't 'see you' and doesn't want you as a customer.
Clearly, if a company thinks people are worthwhile, they invest time and money into advertising to that demographic - By keeping disability absent from your brand's advertising efforts, you are indirectly telling the world, 'We don't think disabled customers have worth.'
Or, to put it very bluntly, you're automatically telling approximately 20% of your consumer base that you DON'T WANT their money.
20% is the global average of people with a disability - consumers, many of whom still buy groceries, technology, travel, clothes, cars and so much more. Only, they aren't being advertised to.
One strategy for inclusive advertising would be to include disabled people in an incidental manner. Not as the villain, superhero or inspirational character. Rather, just an employee sitting at their desk drinking coffee (for example). Or standing at a bar with other people in a very neutral way.
These are examples that the right production team with an eye for seamless inclusion would be able to do. Alternatively, you can always have a consultant on call (who understands the nuances) to avoid embarrassing and costly mistakes.
Become Inclusive: How to get started
It's wonderful that a business wants to be more inclusive of the disability community but there's much more to it than creating one ad campaign with a disabled person or putting a wheelchair ramp on the front door. Importantly, whatever you are doing and where it is possible, consult with the disability community. They have so much valuable insight and a unique perspective that you can't get anywhere else.
Catering to the disability market builds an inclusive society. It sends a powerful message that people with disabilities are valued and their participation in all aspects of life is essential. By embracing accessibility and inclusivity, businesses not only tap into a thriving market but also contribute to positive social change.
Disability inclusion really is a win/win exercise
Disability inclusion isn't just a 'nice thing to do' for society, the data shows that it's profitable for business too. For too many years it has been taboo to discuss the economic and financial befits of the disabled consumer but after acquiring my own disabilities nearly two decades ago and with a strong business background, I saw that this silence was halting the progress of business and industry seeing our worth and respecting us as more than 'charity cases'.
Market Potential: People with disabilities (PWD) constitute a substantial yet often overlooked economic sector, with a market value of £186 billion in the UK alone and a global spending power in the trillions.
Inclusivity and Accessibility: Recognising and catering to the needs and preferences of PWD can unlock economic opportunities while promoting inclusivity and accessibility.
Diverse Demographics: Contrary to media stereotypes, PWD encompass a diverse group of individuals who are often primary decision-makers, homeowners, educated, and have families.
Avoid Stereotypes: Inclusive advertising should feature PWD in everyday roles, avoiding stereotypical portrayals and showcasing their ordinary lives.
Tailored Inclusion: Inclusivity strategies should account for the diverse nature of the disability community, meeting accessibility needs and ensuring representation in content.
Economic Impact: Excluding PWD from advertising efforts indirectly suggests that businesses don't value disabled customers, potentially alienating 20% of the global consumer base.
Inclusive Advertising: Strategies for inclusive advertising may involve the incidental inclusion of PWD, consulting experts to prevent mistakes, and avoiding stereotypes.
Consultation: Businesses should consult with the disability community to gain valuable insights and perspectives on inclusivity.
Fostering Inclusivity: Catering to the disability market not only taps into economic potential but also fosters inclusivity and contributes to positive social change.
Lisa Cox is an award-winning corporate advertiser, author, TEDx speaker, and internationally acclaimed disability advocate.
Known for her rousing public speaking style and insightful business acumen, Lisa is changing social attitudes towards disability, and helping reshape the way it’s represented in the industries that shape our perceptions.