The Invisible Opportunity ebook by Microsoft
The business case for accessibility and inclusivity
Originally published on the Microsoft Blog
Often overlooked, people with disabilities represent untapped business growth.
Although society champions the rights of people with disabilities more today than in the past, there’s still significant stigma surrounding them. In this post, we aim to shed light on the substantial business potential of this largely ignored segment of the population and the untapped opportunity they can have on the growth of your small or medium-sized business. We encourage you to open your mind and break away from traditional biases to “see” this invisible opportunity for what it is.
The invisible consumers
Although conventional thinking has evolved, many business owners don’t see people with disabilities as a potential market opportunity. They don’t yet see the big picture, especially when it comes to demographics in Canada.
Graphic of a Statistics Canada chart from 2012 showing the prevalence of disability by age group with the highest prevalence indicated for people aged 75 and over.
We have an aging population with the largest generation ever entering retirement. Of those aging baby boomers, some will certainly experience new mobility challenges, hearing impairments, and vision loss. Those changes brought on by aging will only add to the already huge number of people living with disabilities today.
According to StatsCan’s “Canadian Survey on Disability” conducted in 2017, an incredible 22 percent of Canadians over 15 years old identified as having at least one disability. That’s 6.2 million Canadians!
Estimated market growth
These retiring boomers also have considerable wealth, and they will require specialized services and products to accommodate their changing lifestyle needs. If numbers alone don’t convince you, perhaps spending power will.
Take Ontario, for example. In the coming years, Ontario’s mature population will significantly increase. The province reports that the median age of the population will move up from 40 years in 2012 to 43 years in 2036. As the population matures, the rate of susceptibility of acquiring a disability from injury and disease increases.
Of course, employers want to retain their vital talent pool of experienced mature workers for as long as possible. To prevent an exodus of knowledge and experience, savvy business owners realize that a few changes can help extend the careers of many and respond to future talent shortages.
Disability management is a proactive workplace process that allows employers to better support employees with physical and mental health issues while they are at work.
The power of values
If you think it’s difficult to find skilled, responsible, and loyal employees, you are not alone. Although Canada enjoys a relatively low unemployment rate, many companies suffer from high turnover. Creating an inclusive workplace can help solve for that. In fact, working with a diverse group of people that includes people with disabilities benefits everyone –your team, your customers, and your business growth.
The Conference Board of Canada reports employees with disabilities perform better in almost every way: job retention, attendance, performance, work quality, and safety records.
Inclusive design delivers value to product development, the customer experience, and to the brand. Consumers who value the environmental, social, and governance components of their products and services now form a majority. People of all ages and backgrounds favour brands that are inclusive, socially aware, and act in-line with their values as consumers and employees.
Preparing for change
As the thought leaders of your organization get older, how do you plan to replace their contribution before they leave? Change can bring on reward or defeat, depending on how you manage it. Organizations that demonstrate progressive principles prosper and extend their brand further than those who sit on the sidelines.
Business owners can help future-proof their business by driving their own accessibility & inclusivity strategy today. They can respond to talent shortages, reflect the markets they serve, and build a better reputation.
Get informed! Get inspired!
Statistics Canada “Canadian Survey on Disability”, 2012 & 2017 editions.
Ontario Ministry of Finance, Ontario Population Projections Update, 2012–2036, 8.
Deloitte, The Road to Inclusion.