‘Penalised for being disabled’: Disabled people shut out from a digital world

Blind Person

Disabled people are being excluded from the digital world by inaccessible websites and apps, with businesses missing out on billions of pounds from would-be customers every year.

As online retailers prepare for this year’s Black Friday sales – with shoppers having spent an estimated £1.49bn online on the day in 2018 – disability equality charity Scope is urging businesses to make sure their websites and apps are accessible for the UK’s 14million disabled people.

New research by Scope has highlighted the immense frustration that inaccessible products and services cause disabled people, with one person saying: “It makes me feel like I’m being penalised for being disabled.”

The survey, carried out by Open Inclusion on behalf of Scope, asked more than 200 disabled people about which issues make shopping online difficult, with respondents selecting all that applied to their online experience. The three most common were:

  • Navigating the website
  • CAPTCHA puzzles or other checkout requirements
  • Difficulty with registering

The research found issues with inaccessible technology are stopping many disabled customers from making the purchases they want to.

Scope asked disabled people what they did when they encountered problems buying goods or services on a website, app or in-store machine such as a self-checkout terminal (with respondents selecting all that applied):

  • 50 per cent of disabled people chose not to buy the item
  • 48 per cent of disabled people found an alternative provider to buy the item more easily
  • 32 per cent had to ask someone in their household to complete the purchase for them

Scope’s new research confirms that many businesses are still shutting out disabled customers. New analysis of ONS data by Scope revealed the current value of the purple pound – the spending power of disabled people and their families – is £274billion a year.

The equality charity is launching the Big Hack, a call-to-action to businesses, the tech industry and the design community to recognise the value of inclusive design and make products accessible.

Working closely with agency Clear Honest Design, Scope has created a resource hub for product designers and web developers, featuring tips and tools to create accessible products and promote inclusive design within their organisation.

Kristina Barrick, Head of Digital Influencing at Scope, said: ‘For disabled people, buying goods and services, socialising, managing health, accessing information and working online has the potential to be truly life-changing, especially when the built environment can be so full of barriers. But Scope keeps hearing about how much the digital world is letting people down.

“Disabled shoppers should be able to take advantage of great Black Friday deals, but many are stopped by badly-designed websites and apps.

“Black Friday is just one shopping day, but businesses can reap much bigger rewards all year round by making sure their websites and apps are accessible. Many are missing out on a multi-billion-pound market simply because they haven’t thought about disabled people.

“Inclusive design benefits everyone. We hope all businesses start to recognise that websites and apps designed for disabled people work better for all customers.”