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People with Disabilities (or PWD) make up a large consumer market that is currently being under-served. Committing to accessibility is not only a wise business decision but is increasingly becoming a necessity. The Government of Canada is in the process of passing the first Accessible Canada Act, and four provinces have already passed provincial legislation around accessibility.

Two-thirds of Canadians are concerned about future mobility challenges, according to a new study done by the Angus Reid Institute. As an Alberta business owner, now is the time to stay ahead of the competition by being a first mover on accessibility. Since the market is increasing as our population ages, starting the transition to being fully accessible should begin now. Below we will take a closer look at the market, address some myths about accessibility, and offer resources to get started.

An Ever-Growing Market

Accessibility has often been an afterthought and considered a significant undertaking for business owners. It is perceived as an extensive and expensive list of rules and regulations imposed for the few. In reality, PWD represented 2.3 million (13.7%) working-aged Canadians in 2012. For Canadians aged 65 and over, those who report experiencing disability increases to 1 in 3. When considering the wealth distribution in Canada, where those aged 55 and over maintain most of the wealth, it’s clear there is value in this market.

Additionally, people with disabilities and their families tend to be some of the most loyal consumers. Businesses that can address the needs of PWD with empathy and care will gain the lifelong support of those consumers and their loved ones. Not only will they continue to purchase those products and services, but they will also ensure everyone knows how great the business is!

Okay, we have a growing, wealthy, and loyal market—what continues to keep businesses from embracing accessibility?

Myths about Accessibility

Many business owners believe that if a business is compliant with building code (e.g., accessible parking stalls and washrooms), that they are accessible enough, but that is rarely the case. When it comes to the physical space, there are many cases where businesses will have elements of accessibility, but they are done incorrectly—such as a grab bar in the wrong place. And, accessibility goes beyond the built environment: it extends to the online world as well. Can everyone navigate your website? Are they able to find contact information to ask if they can access the building?

Probably the biggest deterrent for many business owners is money. I often hear that someone just doesn’t have the budget for accessibility. That could be true for many larger projects like installing an elevator, but there are many easy and inexpensive fixes that you could do today. Some examples include changing lightbulbs to improve visibility, updating signage, and creating an accessibility statement. It boils down to: if you don’t know what needs to be budgeted for, how can you know if you don’t have the budget? Knowledge is power, so the more you know about where you succeed in accessibility, and where you don’t, the better you can serve and attract your customers.

Information and Resources

30% of Canadian consumers surveyed said they value accessible businesses. Here are some resources that can get you started or improve your accessibility:

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Sam Mason

Sam Mason is the Accessibility Representative at Voice of Albertans with Disabilities. She has a Bachelor of Commerce from MacEwan University in Edmonton, where she focused on marketing, economics and sociology. When she is not advocating for accessibility, you can usually find her playing a hot pink bass in her band or working the soundboard at your local music venue. For any inquiries about accessibility or to find out more about Voice of Albertans with Disabilities, you can email her at accessibility@vadsociety.ca or visit the website at www.vadsociety.ca.
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