Reaching the World’s Greatest Untapped Customer

Imagine living alone during the pandemic as a person with a disability. For users with low vision or limited mobility, tasks at home that might’ve taken a significant amount of time have become simplified thanks to assistive technologies. Modern advancements like Alexa, Facetime, SMS texting, Audio Messaging or Siri engage all customers segments and benefit all consumers—no matter their ability. When experiences are designed for all end-users in mind, everyone wins.  

Although significant advancements have been made in the way of innovative and inclusive technology, accessibility remains an undervalued business priority for companies everywhere.

People with disabilities account for over 20% of global consumer spending and control $8 trillion in disposable income. Coupled with friends and family, people with disabilities represent 53 percent of global consumers. 

Despite people with disabilities dominating global audiences—businesses, virtual or otherwise, have made little progress towards inclusion. In the United States, in March 2021 alone, 1,240 lawsuits were filed against inaccessible businesses – the most ever in one month. From January 2021 to June 2021, the number jumped to 6,304 lawsuits. At this rate, by December 2021, there will be an expected 12,000 lawsuits filed against companies or businesses that remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. 

The pandemic’s shift from the physical world to the virtual world has shown businesses and employers how many holes remain in accessibility compliance. From the absence of interpretation services to digital obstacles, these holes are everywhere: in health care, the workplace, education and even state government websites, where more than 30 million Americans filed for unemployment during the pandemic. 

In April, over 86% of state government unemployment websites failed at least one basic test for mobile page load speed, mobile friendliness or accessibility. As life remains online, businesses and government will need to support all users, no matter their ability. Businesses can take the first step in the right direction by adjusting the 98% of web pages in the United States that remain inaccessible for people with disabilities. 

While some of these advances and adjustments are seen as a costly burden to resist, this is an ultimate use case for businesses to embrace innovation and customer exploration. Companies have an opportunity to break the proverbial glass ceiling, open communication channels and speak to people from all different backgrounds and abilities. By doing so, future-forward, inclusive businesses will stand out from the crowd and win over 1 billion consumers with a disability. When accessibility is woven into the heart of business—everyone wins.

Bottom Line  

People with disabilities deserve the same representation every day consumers receive. Find out what these brands are doing to be more inclusive in their campaigns, reach more consumers and ultimately design for everyone in mind.

  • ASOS first created a wheelchair-friendly jumpsuit back in 2018. This past April, it was praised for showcasing a model with a hearing aid in an earring ad campaign.
  • Tommy Hilfiger’s inclusive collection includes adaptive features like Velcro closures, magnetic buttons and adjustable hems. 
  • Nike’s Go FlyEase shoereleased this past April, marks the first hands-free sneaker ever made. 
  • The Xbox adaptive controller is here to make the gaming world more inclusive. Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is here to help those with limited hand and arm mobility play games.
  • Procter & Gamble’s product, Herbal Essences, is doing all it can to make hair care easier for people with visual impairments. They became the first mass hair care brand in North America to introduce an inclusive bottle design for people with low to no vision.
  • Airbnb launched Online Experiences to show that people could travel virtually and connect with Airbnb hosts anywhere in the world, including people with disabilities. Many accessible experiences were followed this launch, like wheelchair workouts with a pro trainer and a cooking class with a deaf teacher. 
  • Guide Beauty was launched in 2020, a line of accessible makeup products especially for people with shaky hands. The founder, Terri Bryant, is a makeup artist who decided to launch the line after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a chronic nervous system disorder. 
  • Lego launched Braille Bricks that are fun and playful for children who are blind or visually impaired. These bricks teach them the Braille system of reading and writing while they play. Braille Bricks were launched in seven countries–including the United States, France, Germany, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Norway. 
  • American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel, launched its first doll with hearing loss. Called American Girl of the Year, the doll Joss Kendrick is described as “a fierce athlete born with hearing loss and a passion for surfing and competitive cheer”  
  • Google Maps launched a new feature that helps businesses indicate whether their establishments are accessible to wheelchair users. Google users can set it up through their account so that wheelchair accessible locations come up in search results. 

Overnight, the pandemic accelerated digital transformation and moved everyday life online. Purchasing products, connecting with a doctor through telehealth services and ordering prescriptions has never been easier for people with full mobility and access to a computer. The internet has become a tool to augment daily life, yet the online shift has almost completely excluded people with disabilities. In order to be fully inclusive, to fully embrace the pandemic’s online “store-front” revolution—businesses need to assure both the physical and digital world are designed for everyone.