Why we should start thinking about accessibility

Written by Gavin Neate, CEO, Neatebox, Joint Winner of the 2019 Digital Leader 100 Awards in the category Digital Skills or Inclusion Initiative

Access is everything. But what is “access”? Does our understanding of the word, and its connotations, sometimes hinder us from addressing the real issues connected with the journey and arrival at a given destination?

Oxford English Dictionary defines Access as: The means or opportunity to approach or enter a place.

“the staircase gives access to the top floor”

synonyms: entrance, entry, way in, means of entry, ingress; More

“…to approach or enter a place” – it makes us think of access as purely a physical challenge, doesn’t it? Well, obviously, for many it is. An absence of a ramp, easy to operate door, or a light switch placed out of reach can result in a disabled person turning around to leave the venue, never to return. However, access is also very much a social issue. We don’t have to think much further than the last time we were made to feel unwelcome or were refused entry into a nightclub to understand how frustrating this can be.

Sadly, 75% of disabled people feel they have had poor service or been discriminated against. With a spending power upwards of £249 billion, surely it is time we started placing a greater emphasis on our social interactions and the act of warmly welcoming visitors to our establishments?

Of course, ‘welcoming’ behaviour is something we expect from our customer service teams. We hire them with this in mind. However, it is vital that the training of staff and the specific requirements of those with certain conditions and needs is given greater attention. Yet, this level of training can be hard to achieve, with many sectors experiencing a regular high turnover of staff. So, is it any wonder that social access and incidents of discrimination are never far from our social media feeds?

Here at Neatebox, we have produced a graphic which demonstrates why traditional training just won’t meet the need and simply papers over any cracks on a temporary basis only.

It was this realisation which focussed our minds on developing a solution and one which has been winning innovation awards since its launch.

With ‘Welcome’ we are combining accessible mobile phone technology such as VoiceOver and Zoom with GPS (location awareness) and providing customer service teams with top tips, links to further training and a message from their visitor immediately prior to their arrival at their location. In doing so not only are we able to improve the visitor’s experience, but we are also able to support the service team and help build relationships between customer and business – perhaps you could say even changing the face of retail, leisure, business and travel.

So, when you are asked if your business has good access take a moment to think not only about the entrance to your building, but also the empathetic greeting your visitors receive from the first member of staff they talk to as this is the very foundation on which your future relationships will depend.

It might be time to start thinking about your own definition of “access” and how this effects your business!

Find out more about Neatebox here.

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