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How to market accessibility

Providing a guide to the accessibility of your venue can attract customers. And a new website can help you produce and publish one.

The business case for providing information about accessibility has never been stronger. One in five people in the UK are disabled – that’s 20% of your potential market. And with a massive 31% increase in the number of domestic trips taken by the 55-plus age group in recent years, and an ageing population, demand is only set to grow. But who exactly should you be talking to?

There is a common perception that accessibility is only about wheelchair users. In reality, less than 9% of the UK disabled population uses a wheelchair. People with hearing loss, visual or mental impairment, older people and families with young children also benefit. A hearing aid user, for example, may be more confident in staying somewhere if they know there is a vibrating pillow pad linked to a fire alarm.’

The new Accessibility Guide

According to a survey by Euan’s Guide, a review website by and for disabled people, 54% of people with access requirements avoid going to new places if they can’t find information about accessibility. One of the best ways to advertise this practical information is via an Accessibility Guide. This is a clear and concise description of the layout of your venue and any services you provide, allowing potential customers with accessibility requirements to decide whether it is suitable for them.

If this sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of an Access Statement.

VisitEngland and VisitScotland have worked in partnership to evolve Access Statements – including updating the name – based on feedback from both businesses and customers. The new Accessibility Guide format is easier for businesses to complete and also standardises how information is presented, making it easier for disabled customers to compare venues.

Giving visitors information

Despite the benefits of providing accessibility information, the latest research shows that nearly two thirds (63%) of businesses that cater for accessibility requirements do not promote their facilities and services – a missed opportunity.

‘When we put a link to our guide on the homepage of our website we had over a 200% rise in the number of people accessing it,’ says Francis McKee, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Arts, situated in Glasgow. ‘The Accessibility Guide is such a valuable tool for our potential customers.’

Jamie Shail, owner of Rothay Manor hotel in Cumbria, found producing a guide had other benefits. ‘It allowed us to concentrate our minds on what our disabled guests needed, which has helped our business planning. It’s also useful for staff to have information to hand so they are aware of what we can and can’t provide.’

Using the new website

A new free-to-use Accessibility Guides website is now available, featuring a questionnaire that automatically generates your finished guide. To produce your guide, simply answer a series of questions specific to your type of business – such as whether there is level access to your main entrance. Among many new elements, the finished guide includes an ‘at a glance’ section, which highlights key accessibility facts up front. Your guide is accessed via a unique URL, so you only need to add the link to your website once no matter how frequently you make updates.

And there are more positive changes on the way. In future we will be launching a consumer search function for venues with published Accessibility Guides, which will be prominently linked to from the VisitEngland and VisitScotland websites.

If you have an older Access Statement, there is no strict timetable for moving over to the new format. However, it does pay to put this job on your ‘to do’ list as producing a new guide will increase your visibility and appeal to this market, helping you to boost bookings and business. Start your guide now by visiting www.accessibilityguides.org.

“54% of people with access requirements avoid going to new places if they can’t find information about accessibility”

Writing an Accessibility Guide: 5 tips

  • Know your numbers. Take measurements in advance. For instance, the width of doorways and access routes.
  • Have your old Access Statement to hand. It will contain key facts and figures, so you don’t need to gather them again. (Existing users can download theirs.)
  • Upload photos. Images give visitors an instant impression of your venue and are very helpful for people with autism.
  • Stick to a simple description. Don’t make judgement calls on who your venue is suitable for. Simply describe your layout and accessibility features and let the customer decide; for example, some wheelchair users may be able to manage a couple of steps.
  • Advertise your weblink. Promote your unique guide URL. Remember to add the link prominently on your website and to any online travel agent listings or destination organisation websites.