Many companies who come to us are uncertain how to engage with and understand disabled people’s needs. They already make up a proportion of their customer base and they want to serve them better, or they are looking to attract more disabled and older customers, or ensure their existing product is as accessible as possible.
However, many are unsure how to approach people, how to communicate in an accessible way or, even in person, how to interact and whether to offer assistance to a disabled person. Many companies may be missing an understanding of the experiences and access needs of older and disabled people, having never explored it before.
This is something we see often, and we are always happy to help.
As a research charity we are run by disabled people, most of our Trustees have lived experience of disability. We also have a dedicated consumer panel of disabled and older people who have been sharing their insight and experiences with us for over ten years.
So what are the benefits of commissioning us to do your research?
Working with us can help to take away some of the fear or awkwardness. You’ll see first-hand how we interact with our panel and we’ll guide you through the different terms. By this we don’t mean getting lost in a world of PC language and formalities, but rather our advice is simple: ask people, listen to them, and treat people as human beings. You might also benefit from finding out about the ‘social model of disability’, which we follow, and is why we always use the term ‘disabled people’ over ‘people with disabilities’.
In research terms, the fact we have had a dedicated panel of disabled and older people that we have immediate access to has clear benefits. Firstly, our panel care about their services and products becoming more accessible, and they understand that their input will help to achieve this. So they are ready and willing to engage. No scrabbling around to find enough numbers or people who fit a specific brief – we have them already. And, at 2,500 members and rising, the panel is large enough that it’s likely some of your customers will already be amongst them.
Secondly, we specialise in this work. It’s the only research we do. So we know that our surveys, user testing, focus groups and other methods are 100% accessible. Even for those who aren’t online – we go over the survey on the phone, and ensure their needs are accommodated for so they can easily share their views about products and services. Our team know the panel members, and have a good understanding of their needs. There is a trust there, so people feel able to say what they truly think when it comes to their feedback – which of courses makes your research insights all the more useful. We will be upfront about what is or isn’t working for them, but also suggest solutions and work-arounds – often proposed by panel members themselves.
Working alongside us in itself can be a masterclass in accessibility. In the past, we have helped past clients to make sure their consent forms use everyday language that doesn’t exclude anyone. Or advised on survey questions to ensure they will be understood by all. For user-testing or forums, you can see how we interact with our panel and potentially even meet some of your customers yourself. This isn’t about cotton-wool treatment or deliberating over every word - it’s simply about everyone in the room feeling comfortable and respected. There is of course, always room for mistakes, and you will find that disabled and older people have often learnt to live their lives with a large dose of humour and pragmatism!
Many of our clients speak about a ‘lightbulb moment’ in the research process, often after interviews with our panel or a focus group. ‘I never thought of that’, or ‘it has given me a totally new perspective’. They are able to have these realisations because they are witnessing the experience of the disabled customer first hand. We connect you so directly that you are able to live in their shoes and experience your own product or service through their eyes. It’s a whole new take on your customer journey, and it comes from listening and caring about the answers.
The key realisation is also that in designing for the needs of disabled and older customers, companies are in turn making their products and services more accessible for everyone. Not just those specific customers. There are many people who may not consider themselves to be older or disabled but will be able to use your product or service much more easily with simple accessibility adjustments.
We have been working in this field for over fifty years and are extremely passionate about what we do. To work with us, you don’t need to be an expert in it all yet – that's our job, and we welcome you to work with us at whatever stage of your accessibility journey. The intention is what counts.
If you’d like to chat through your needs, please get in touch with Caroline, our Head of Development on CarolineJacobs@RiDC.org.uk