2023 - what a year!

A poster showing the words 2023 Thank You on an orange background Below the text are circles with the faces of different panel members and Trustee of RiDC
18 Dec 2023

We are coming to the end of 2023 and what an incredible year of expansion, in-depth focus and collaboration for RiDC

We’ve been involved in some really exciting projects – such as the UK’s first National Centre for Inclusive Transport (ncat). As well as the government’s landmark research on the consumer experience of disabled people and the effects of the rising cost of living. Our staff team has seen five brilliant new members join, who bring a wealth of expertise, skill and lived experience to offer.    

Membership of our consumer panel of disabled and older people has increased exponentially for the second year in a row, and we are incredibly proud to now have over 4,000 people as part of this community. As far as we know, it’s the biggest and most dedicated consumer panel of its kind in the country.   

Taking a look back, some of this year’s milestones include: 

Hearing in January that RiDC, as part of a collaboration of organisations led by Coventry University, had been awarded £10 million in funding from Motability, to create and run the UK’s first evidence centre for inclusive transport. Later named ncat (National Centre for Accessible Transport), it’s aim is to make transport accessible for all. In February, the centre launched and we undertook our first bit of research in October, looking at the barriers that disabled people currently face in using transport. Watch this space for much more to come in 2024 and beyond.  

In the spring, we started work with a national parcel delivery company. They had contacted us after our previous research with Which? had shown that as many as seven in ten disabled consumers had faced delivery problems in the previous year. Seeing these insights, Evri wanted to conduct their own in-depth research and analysis of their services with our consumer panel. Later in the year, after our work together, they announced a new option on their delivery service – disabled people could now select an accessible delivery instruction for their parcels. They’ve also pledged a commitment to continue to evolve and review their service for disabled consumers into the future.  

Stacey Ramm, Head of Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Wellbeing at Evri, said:

“Thanks so much to RiDC for your help and support with the research and insights - the input from your panel members has been invaluable for us to build a process that works for disabled people.” 

This summer saw our research with Which? highlighting that bank branch closures and poor websites risk excluding disabled people from their services. It listed the best and worst banks rated by our consumer panel of disabled and older people, and included quotes taken from panel interviews and survey. 

In August we also launched our landmark research commissioned by the Government’s Disability Unit. Tasked with finding out how accessible it is for disabled people to access goods and services in the private sector, and provide a picture of how the rising cost of living is affecting disabled people. With almost 4,000 completed responses, these were clearly topics that people felt very strongly about. We had some extremely insightful, honest and thought-provoking comments that we could share directly with the Disability Unit and other government departments

Moving on into Autumn, our research for the University of Bristol's Personal Finance Research Centre (supported by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust) found that a third of disabled people in the UK were facing financial hardship. This was picked up by the media and featured in articles such as that in Forbes magazine, FT Advisor, and the Disability News Service.

In October, Natural England released their report on creating more accessible green (forests, parks, grasslands and recreational areas) and blue (rivers, oceans, seas and lakes) spaces for disabled people. With the panel’s input, the report found that ‘certain groups still face significant barriers when it comes to experiencing the enjoyment and benefits of natural spaces. Natural England (the government’s advisor for the natural environment in England) also presents a range of recommendations designed to equitably enhance accessibility to green and blue spaces, benefiting not only visitors with visual impairments but disabled people more broadly as well.  

Throughout the year, RiDC continued to be part of important conversations at events related to disabled consumers. These included our Head of Inclusive Research, Eric Harris, speaking at evidence session in the Houses of Parliament, organised by the Women and Equalities Committee. The session looked at the challenges disabled consumers face when buying goods and services, in the third session of its National Disability Strategy inquiry. Our CEO, Gordon also spoke alongside panel member, Tiffany at the Collaboration Network’s Vulnerability Summitt in July, and we ran our own online webinar looking at how disabled people can reduce their energy usage and bills when they need to use Assistive Technology.

We continued to amplify the voices of disabled people and their experience as consumers through panel members contributing blogs, videos, podcasts and quotes for our website, social media and the wider media. An article from our panel member Becca was featured in Able magazine (page 49), Masuma spoke about shopping for Eid in enable magazine and 90 year old Arthur was interviewed for his local paper.  

Panel member Sarah, also gave her insight on what it’s like to use packaging as a disabled person for Packaging Europe. Musician Barrington appeared on our podcast: Gears, Gadgets and Gizmos.   

Organisation-wise, our research was also featured in media articles such as those for The Independent, Forbes magazine, the Disability News Service, Yahoo.com and The Big Issue amoung others. Our CEO, Gordon, spoke on Edie.net’s Sustainability Uncovered podcast and our Trustee, Tracey, gave her expert advice on designing inclusive spaces for Designerati magazine 

It's been a year where the collective voice of our panel, with its diversity of lived experience has really shown the power it can weald.

As one panel member, said when encouraging others to join:

Let people hear your voice. Sometimes this is all we have and instead of whispering the need for change - let others hear it. 

Thank you to all our dedicated panel members who give their time so generously – you make us what we are.

If you’re a disabled or older person and would like to join our panel, you can find out more here   

If you would like to find out more about commissioning RiDC to undertake research into the accessibility of your products or services, contact us here.