Restaurants urged to improve disability awareness training

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Restaurants urged to improve disability awareness training
A new campaign is calling on restaurants and hospitality businesses to offer training to help their staff to assist disabled customers.

Purple, a social enterprise that works with both disabled people and the business community, has launched the ‘Help Me Spend My Money’ campaign with the aim of ensuring that operators offer the same level of service to all customers.

It argues that in a fiercely competitive market operators need to realise the potential of the ‘Purple Pound’, which the government estimates is worth £249bn annually to the economy.

Shopping, eating and drinking out were ranked in the top three most difficult experiences for disabled people based on accessibility, according to research conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions.

In 2015 a major report revealed that restaurant and pubs were missing out on £1.8bn worth of business a month​ by failing to cater for disabled customers. A House of Lords Select Committee even suggested​ that operators that fail to provide facilities for disabled customers should be closed down.

“As a disabled customer, I have experienced many of the problems that prevent people like myself from spending more time, and therefore more money, in shops and restaurants," says Purple CEO Mike Adams. "Plus, four in five disabled people have a hidden impairment, so it isn’t always obvious that they might need additional assistance.

“Poor service can take many forms, but one of the most common is a failure to engage or acknowledge disabled customers. In the majority of instances this doesn’t happen on purpose, it’s because staff are concerned about causing (unintentional) offence.

“Something as simple as saying ‘hello, can I help?’ can make a big difference. So what we’re saying is that investing in disability confidence isn’t just about social responsibility, there’s also a big commercial opportunity to be had if you get it right.”

The minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, Penny Mordaunt, adds: “Retailers must make their services accessible to everyone. It’s not only the responsible thing to do, it makes good business sense too. I lend my full support to Purple in their efforts to empower disabled people, both as employees and consumers.”

Businesses are being asked to sign a ‘charter for change’ that commits them to:

-       Making Disability Awareness training available to in-store staff

-       Having a website that meets independent accessibility guidance

-       Providing key customer information in large print, braille, and easy read formats

-       Taking steps to promote their disability confident status

-       Signing up to the government’s Disability Confident scheme

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