Even if there were only one disabled person in the entire world, most would agree that to include this person would be the right thing to do. However, business seems to have little in the way of a moral compass, & thus one of the most common excuses not to accommodate disabled people is that it isn’t worth the cost for such a small group of people. This train of thought is based upon a major mis-truth; that accessibility only benefits disabled people. In actuality, accessibility benefits everyone.
The most obvious example of the benefits being accessible can bring to non-disabled people is that an accessible business will make more money, particularly as inaccessible competitors allow them to essentially generate a monopoly on where disabled people can go. A prime example of this is a local business that turned a Grade 2 Listed basement into an accessible social space with multiple street food vendors & a couple of bars. Their neighbour in an adjoined basement of the same kind, who even have a lift already in the building, refuse to make their floor accessible because of the listed status of the building. Even if this neighbour were to catch up with the times, I would not set foot (wheel?) in the place because of the way they have treated me in the matter. I know that I would not necessarily be welcome for forcing them to spend some precious money to comply with the law, whereas I’m on first name terms with half of the staff in the first basement.
Similarly, being able to spend money is not the only way that accessibility can benefit non-disabled people. In my “proper” job there are lots of meetings between the staff who run the trial, handle the data like me, & the medics who conduct the actual medical (read; the gross stuff) aspect of the research. The trial management team have a plethora of rooms to choose from, including those used as teaching rooms for medical students if the medical research offices get too full. Accessibility information for the teaching rooms is readily available if you know where to look, although I did have to show my colleague where to go using my experience as a student of the university, as it isn’t especially intuitive to find. However, for the non-teaching rooms this information is not available except through a special email address, which significantly slows down the process of obtaining necessary information. Often, the room has to be booked before the access information is given, which sometimes means that the room booked isn’t actually accessible. If that information was readily available for staff, students, & visitors, it would save my colleague a significant amount of time & worry when trying to accommodate the needs of everyone involved. It would also send a good message to any prospective business partners.
Finally, there is the most important reason of all to be inclusive; disabled people have knowledge & skills just like everyone else on the planet. How many important discoveries have been missed by excluding someone because they are black, a woman, gay, trans, Muslim, Jew, disabled, or any such other circumstance? When I started my job in medical research I already had experience in clinical trials thanks to my final year project as a student, & in the test I demonstrated my logical thinking & reasoning, but I also brought something no other candidate had; experience of long-term debilitating illness that leant me the empathy that drives my work, & the passion & initiative to quickly start making waves in the equality & inclusion department. To exclude disabled people is to exclude the attributes we bring with us; passion, self-motivation, & lateral thinking, attributes that are useful in any line of work.
If businesses want to think only in terms of how much accessibility costs compared to rewards it will bring, then so be it. There is very little point being self-righteous in commerce however right you may be, because you simply won’t be heard. To get through to people why accessibility is important, you have to speak their language; money, profit, & efficiency. Only by appealing to them on what they understand will you incite the change that is so needed.
One thought on “Business Sense.”
The amount of times I’ve put myself at risk by walking around London instead of hiring a wheelchair because of accessibility is sad. The times I’ve felt guilty or not asked for accommodations at work is even sadder. But unfortunately some organisations will question you and doubt you and make you say you don’t need it even if an independent assessor says you do. But that’s then talent, skills and representation that has been and will be lost.
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