A research survey to discover how much revenue UK businesses are losing due to disabled customers finding their websites inaccessible, has been launched today by industry experts.

The internet has revolutionised the way that consumers shop. However, the research will uncover just how well companies design their websites to cater for disabled consumers.

Many disabled shoppers face problems when using websites that have not been specially designed to be accessible to everyone. This may include people with sight impairments, individuals who experience difficulties when using a mouse or keyboard and people who need to use specialist software.

If businesses fail to consider these access needs when designing their websites they are likely to be difficult, if not impossible, to use. When faced with problems using a website, disabled shoppers typically take their business elsewhere.

The Click-Away Pound survey has been commissioned and designed by Brighton-based Rick Williams, Managing Director of specialist disability consultancy Freeney Williams and associate of Business Disability Forum (BDF), in partnership with IT accessibility specialist Steve Brownlow of Frabjous Day.

“As a visually impaired person, I use assistive technology, which is good, but companies need to think about how my specialist kit works with their website. They often don’t. I use the internet a lot to shop but will typically have to try a number of sites before I find one I can actually use. This means the first few have lost my business,” said Rick Williams.

“After 20 years of the Disability Discrimination Act, most high street stores understand they need to take into account the needs of their disabled shoppers. But many appear to have overlooked how to make their online presence more accessible.”

The Click-Away Pound survey follows on from the recent Walk Away Pound report by the Business Disability Forum (BDF) and the Extra Costs Commission (ECC), which found that at a cost to business of £1.8bn per month, 75% of disabled customers had ‘walked away’ from a retailer’s premises because they did not cater adequately for them.

The Click-Away Pound survey represents the next generation of research designed to inspire positive change among UK businesses as they shift more and more to selling goods and services online.

Rick Williams is now using his personal and professional expertise to show to business what they are missing out online. He added:

“Of the websites assessed by Freeney Williams over the past 5 years, over 70% have been assessed as ‘red’ on our traffic light system. This means they expose the business to significant reputational and legal risk – not to mention losing customers!

“We will use the research findings to persuade business this is an increasingly important issue for them. If the law doesn’t persuade them to do things differently and think about disabled shoppers, perhaps the bottom line will.

“We want as many disabled online shoppers as possible to go to the website www.clickawaypound.com and take part in this survey. We expect the results will play a key role in improving business’ approach to this issue.”

Susan Scott Parker, Honorary Vice President and Founder of Business Disability Forum and now CEO at Business Disability International said:

“This is one area many businesses seem to struggle with. This survey will demonstrate what we’ve known for many years. Businesses ignore disabled shoppers at the risk of their bottom line and damage to their PR. Why would anyone do that?”

In developing this research, Freeney Williams is being supported by Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Business Disability Forum, Business Disability International and the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

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