We tend to associate exclusivity with elitism, rare qualities, or special offers. In other words, in business terms, it usually has positive connotations. However, what if your business is exclusive for the wrong reasons?
You might not be being directly discriminatory, but you are excluding certain people. These could be customers, or employees. This is the experience for many deaf people in Britain today.
According to a survey from Action On Hearing Loss:
- Three out of four people with hearing loss feel they have limited employment opportunities
- Many of those surveyed have retired early
- 80% named employers as a major barrier to advancement
“Deaf people face communication barriers in many walks of life,” explains Segun Babatunde, director of YouMeSign. “To too many businesses, deaf people are simply invisible, under the radar, so they do not cater for them.”
This is a business error, both socially and economically.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that social value and inclusivity have growing importance in driving business success, and affecting profitability”, Segun points out.
“Businesses simply cannot afford not to be more inclusive, because, increasingly, customers will judge them on it”
Similarly, there is a large, untapped potential in appealing more directly to customers with various disabilities and impairments.
As Segun explains, “The so-called purple pound is real, but it depends on two key things: more businesses accommodating inclusivity in the workplace to increase their spending power; and more businesses making it easier for people with special education needs and disablities (SEND) to buy their products or use their services.”
Profoundly deaf himself, Segun’s mission is to develop smart solutions and raise awareness of communication issues that the deaf face in their day to day lives.
“We realise that simply waving a warning sign about equality provision is not in itself a solution,” he says. “So, we look at how innovation can help to resolve issues of exclusivity in the workplace by overcoming communications barriers that deaf people face.”
What YouMeSign offers are practical solutions to help businesses interact with deaf customers and employees better.
These include simple, elegant solutions, such as illustrated bar runners to help bar staff communicate with deaf people, and business card-sized, fold-out communication guides.
“It is essential to empower deaf people as consumers, but also give businesses the means to better integrate them, whether as employees or customers”
YouMeSign also helps businesses meet their statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010, by giving them the practical support to become more accessible.
“It’s about the value of communication,” Segun concludes, “and how to ensure that it’s effective, and that everyone benefits.”