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Thursday, 25th July 2013 at 11:56 am

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Smart Businesses Know the ‘Disability Dollar’

By Staff Reporter,

Smart businesses are taking steps to ensure their customer service staff possess the systems and skills to ensure outstanding customer service to everyone including those affected by disability, says the CEO of the Australian Network on Disability, Suzanne Colbert AM.

Over the years, we've heard conversations about attracting the pink dollar and the grey dollar. However, both of these markets are considerably smaller than the “disability dollar”.

Australia has over four million people with some form of disability. That's one in five of our population. Estimates indicate that Australians with disability have a combined disposable income of $54 million per annum.

The correlation between age and disability gives even greater insight into why smart businesses are ensuring they are accessible and welcoming to all. 40% of Australians aged between 65 and 69 years are affected by disability.

It’s therefore easy to see why smart businesses are taking steps to ensure their customer service staff possess the systems and skills to ensure outstanding customer service, in order to win the brand-loyalty of this well-off market segment and to diversify their customer base.

For example, Westpac is responding to the needs of the almost four million Australians with a hearing impairment by employing full-time Auslan interpreters to support communication with customers and employees who are Deaf and use Australian sign language.

The big four banks are also taking steps to ensure their websites are fully accessible to the 300,000 Australians who are blind or have vision impairment.

More Australian businesses are educating call centre staff to work with the National Relay Service, to ensure that staff can handle calls smoothly from people who have speech or hearing impairments.

These are all good business moves, because 48% of all complaints against businesses that are lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission are disability related.

Recently, we saw a backlash against a firm that alienated this sector of the market. Apart from the potential damage to reputation, it just makes good business sense to be inclusive and welcoming to all customers and employees.

According to a 2006 University of Massachusetts survey, 87% of people agree that they would prefer to give their business to companies that hire people with disability. Many leading Australian businesses are taking steps to ensure that they actively attract and recruit skilled and talented people with disability as employees. Apart from recruiting for good business reasons, profiling staff to reflect the entire community gives businesses a better chance of being accessible to all.

Expertise on how to become a more inclusive business is available through the Australian Network on Disability (AND), a Not for Profit organisation.

AND helps businesses to understand complex customer and employee demographics, facilitating them in responding to this growing market segment by building their disability confidence through publications, reviews, training and advisory services.

By becoming more “disability confident”, businesses will contribute to a prosperous Australia, and reap the full business benefits of a wide customer base.

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