How many people have disabilities?

Statistics and the real story behind them

Census Bureau – 2012

shops-shopping-mall-signs“The U.S. Census Bureau released a report containing updated statistics on the population of people with disabilities in the U.S.  The Bureau reports that 56.7 million Americans (18.7% of the population) have some type of disability.

Some statistics from the report via Seyfarth Shaw’s very informative ADA Title III blog.

“The Bureau reports that among people age 15 and older:

8 million have a vision impairment

8 million have a hearing impairment

31 million have difficulty walking or climbing stairs, including 4 million people who use wheelchairs and 12 million people who use canes, crutches, or walkers

20 million have difficulty lifting or grasping.” 

Here’s another set of numbers to wrap your head around.

“More than 50 million Americans with disabilities – 18% of our population – are potential customers for businesses of all types across the United States.

“This group has $175 billion in discretionary spending power, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That figure is more than twice the spending power of American teenagers and almost 18 times the spending power of the American “tweens” market.”

Accessibility attracts not only people with disabilities but also their families and friends. Like others, these customers often visit stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses accompanied by family or friends. This expands the potential market exponentially!

This market is growing fast. By the year 2030, 71.5 million Baby Boomers will be over the age of 65 and demanding products, services, and environments that address their age-related physical changes.”

There’s a lot of money to be made in getting this right.

What retail stores can do

Tiffiny Carlson, The Mobility Resource writes via the Huffington Post about small retail shops and grocery stores. She includes tips like leaving room in the aisles so that people using a wheelchair can navigate through. There are good points discussing staff training so that employees know when and how to offer help.

She also emphasizes that the store will have a customer for life if they are treated well. Since most people who have a disability have family and friends those people will also want to sign on as loyal customers.

“There are over 48.9 million living with a disability in the U.S.

Taking notice and appreciating our buying-power can be one of the best business moves you’ve made all year. Our population just in the U.S. spends $150 billion annually.”

Mart Carts available

An article on Disabled World shows that even a temporary disability (like waiting for knee surgery can have a profound effect on one’s day to day ability to get around.)

This article brings very familiar stores and organizations into the conversation (Costco, Goodwill, Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware) into the conversation about which outlets in her area had mart carts available. The little observations about which stores had diligently plugged in the ones needing recharging and how helpful the staff was gives life to the conversation.

Staff training

Just in case you thought your staff had a full 7 seconds to make a good first impression, guess again. Most recent research reveals that a person makes a positive or negative judgement within 1/10 of a second — and they don’t usually change their first impression. Your staff, especially your front line staff, needs training and coaching to apply simple, practical standards when they encounter a person with a disability. Pret a Manger restaurants worked with the Equal Rights Center (ERC) in 2012 to make sure that their facilities were accessible and their staff trained in disability etiquette.

Depending on your business this might involve simple transactions, like offering to read a menu out loud to a customer with low vision or writing notes back and forth for a deaf customer. Your marketing and customer service department can also develop additional materials in Braille or audio which can be presented as options in a friendly and supportive manner.

We provide training materials to sensitize and support your support staff. Contact us for more information.

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