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The business case for inclusive design: The Big Hack study findings

The Big Hack
Our latest study looks at how much businesses are missing out by not developing accessible websites, apps and products. This study was sponsored by Barclays.

The Big Hack research into the business case for inclusive design

We’ve researched the numbers to find out how much businesses are missing out by not developing inclusive digital websites, apps and products.

Scope partnered with Open Inclusion and Barclays Access to study the spending and purchasing power of disabled people online. These findings support much of the feedback we have had from disabled people adding their voices to our Big Hack Reporting Tool survey.

How a lack of inclusive design affects spending decisions

Half of the people surveyed who experienced problems buying goods or services through a website, app or in-store machine ended up not buying the product. Another 48% found a different provider and purchased their products elsewhere.Bar chart comparing user responses to the question "When you have problems buying goods or services on a website or app, or using an in-store machine, what do you do?" with 50% of respondents choosing not to buy the item, 48% finding an alternative provider and 32% asking someone else to help complete the purchase for them.

When businesses fail disabled customers online, most will choose to abandon the purchase or find another company with a more accessible website. While respondents could select multiple options, these were the top responses:

  • 50% of respondents chose not to buy the item
  • 48% found an alternative provider to buy the item more easily
  • 32% asked someone in their household to complete the purchase for them
  • 20% did something else. Most respondents request a friend, carer or member of staff’s assistance (most in-store, one via telephone and one via live chat phone helpdesk) including one respondent asking their carer to go to the shop on their behalf.

I’m unable to book tickets to theatres or gigs. Unable to find accessibility information for business and services online. Unable to flag to companies that I have access needs. For example, utility companies, doctors clinics.

Survey respondent

Where people experience the most digital accessibility issues

We know that accessibility issues are prominent in all industries. We asked disabled users which category most of their poor digital experiences online fell into.

Bar chart showing where respondents experienced the 10 most common poor digital experiences per category. At the top is Groceries with 39% of people experiencing problems purchasing or ordering online. At second is Trains at 38%, Clothing and Footwear at 36%, food or drink to takeaway at 30% and so on.

At the top of the list was groceries with 39% of respondents saying they experienced difficulty purchasing or ordering food or drink online.

Train-booking websites were the second most common area, with 38% of users reporting difficulty using train travel services online. In third place, 36% of respondents reported poor digital experiences with clothing and footwear retailers.

Category for most common poor digital experiences Percentage of respondents who experienced issue
Groceries (food or drink to eat at home) 39%
Trains (above ground) 38%
Clothing and footwear 36%
Food or drink to eat out or takeaway 30%
Hotels, Motels, Bed and Breakfasts 26%
Entertainment, sports and leisure 25%
Phone and internet bills 25%
Homewares, furnishings, small appliances, garden products 22%
Utilities (electricity, water, gas, other fuels) 21%
Medical or dental services 19%

Note: A ‘digital experience’ describes any time when the respondent had to use a computer or the internet.

I would like to spend more than I currently do, but I can’t because it’s such a laborious task. If websites, apps and stores were more accessible, then I’d spend more because I’d have no restrictions. The Purple Pound is worth a lot, but businesses don’t seem to realise this and put the effort in to make their products and websites accessible in order to benefit from the purple pound.

Survey respondent


Most common accessibility barriers faced online

When asked about which issues made shopping online tricky, 47% of respondents said website navigation was the main issue for them. Other top issues included CAPTCHA puzzle or other checkout requirements (45% of respondents experiencing a barrier to purchasing) and difficulty with registering (34%).

Accessibility issue Percentage of respondents who experienced issue
Navigating around the website 47%
Cannot complete CAPTCHA puzzle or other checkout requirements 45%
Difficulty registering online 34%
Having to use the phone service and speaking with a salesperson 30%
Difficulty finding things they want and putting them in the basket 28%
Worrying they will get scammed 28%
Worrying they will be charged extra money 27%
Finding it difficult to pay for things and check out 25%
Finding it difficult to understand the details of a website (e.g. price or tariffs) 22%
Phone staff are not helpful or respectful 22%


The businesses missing out

When asked if UK businesses are losing out because their services are not inclusive enough, 75% of respondents said yes.

Bar chart comparing user responses to the question "Are UK businesses losing out because not enough products and services are designed well enough for disabled people?" With 75% of respondents replying with 'Yes', 7% of respondents saying 'No', and the remaining 18% saying "I don't know"

Disabled people were asked what they would like to spend more money on if the products, apps and websites to purchase were accessible, and if money were no object. For example, spending more money on film-subscription services (entertainment) if it was more accessible to them.

The biggest proportion of people at 67% said they would spend more money on entertainment, sports and leisure if there were no barriers to access. Clothing and footwear was the second largest area with 53% of respondents suggesting they would like to spend more money, followed by hotel bookings at 44%.


The potential of The Purple Pound

The latest Purple Pound estimate is £274 billion according to the Scope’s analysis of the ONS, Household Below Average Income Survey for 2017 to 2018.

Graph charting the value of The Purple Pound over time from £207 billion in 2013 to 2014 soaring to £274 billion in 2017 to 2018.

The Purple Pound is the aggregate income (after housing cost) of households with at least one disabled person. It’s a proxy for the purchasing power of the disabled community.

We believe businesses can, and should, build more inclusive products and services. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear about our latest research, news and events. Or, check out our Resources Hub for free accessibility resources and guides and learn how to become an inclusive design ally.

If you would like to learn more about how to get involved, please email The Big Hack Team at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @ScopeBigHack.

Contribute an article

The Big Hack is an open community, and if you have an idea, or an article, about how to make the digital world more inclusive, we want to hear from you.

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People are talking about this article:

  • Peter Stevens 29th November 2019

    Buying online is becoming nightmare, mostly because of marketing lies! There are so many “catch all” descriptions of goods that it can take quite some keyboard dexterity to narrow down to items of real interest.

    In the responses from business types, there’s no mention of online banking. I’ve been in discussions with my bank and it still closes down my keyboard and forces me to use a pointing device just to navigate within a page.

    Am I missing something, but isn’t it against the law to run a business site without implementing basic accessibility? Seems to me that the bigger the company, the more they flout the rules. When you complain directly and get told it’s too bad, that’s where the focus of recourse action should be!

    • Daisy at The Big Hack 9th December 2019

      Thanks for commenting Peter, and sorry to hear that shopping online has become harder for you.

      To answer your question about whether it’s against the law, The Equality Act of 2010 states that failure to provide goods or services to disabled people amounts to discrimination. Section 20 requires that reasonable adjustments be made and should include the provision of information in an accessible format.

      It means that businesses have an ongoing duty to anticipate and resolve issues that would prevent disabled people from accessing their products and services.

      Breaching the Equality Act constitutes a civil rather than criminal offence, and therefore has to be enforced through private legal action. Nonetheless, there are cases of organisations such as the RNIB pursuing this kind of action, but the law in this area remains untested.

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