Life costs more if you have a disability

Extra Costs Commission

By Kay Allen – Commissioner

The Extra Costs Commission launches its interim report, which explores why life costs more if you have a disability

There are several reasons why life costs more if you have a disability. Disabled people might need to:

  • Buy more of everyday items
  • Buy expensive essential equipment
  • Be prevented from accessing cheaper deals and cheaper services
  • And then there is the simple barrier of the lack of information and choice

Disabled people often find that they have no choice but to spend more or opt for the most expensive option to accommodate their disability. Transport would be an example. The bus, tram or tube would be the cheapest solution however if the transport cannot accommodate a disabled persons access needs then the more expensive option of a taxi is often the only choice available. But if that’s your choice to get to work or the shops then that simply is the cross you have to bear.

Essential equipment such as electric wheelchairs or scooters can be extremely expensive and yet this equipment can mean independence and greater freedom to access jobs and recreation. Of course you are going to buy the equipment you need to live well – and why shouldn’t you?

Many businesses still have access barriers such as steps or cluttered shop areas, which make access difficult. Often this means shopping in more accessible places but these can be more expensive.

The Extra Costs Commission survey found that nearly half of the disabled people surveyed felt that they only have some of the information they need or want when buying things online or in-store. When a disabled person buys an item they need to know about the product but they also need to know if they can use it. They need an extra piece of information. For example it might be a great phone but can I hold it in my hand and actually use it. Lack of information means multiple searches and multiple shopping trips to try and find out the right information.

The conclusion of the Extra Costs report is that life costs more if you are disabled… less competitive markets push up costs for disabled people who incur the cost of multiple trips or searches to find the product they need, reduced choice or having to buy something slightly different or more expensive

The Purple Pound – a revenue stream for business.

We have heard about the Pink Pound and The Silver Pound – well the research highlights the huge about of disposable income that is available from the collective purse of disabled people. The phrase Purple Pound is catching on.

This is a great opportunity for those businesses that can reach out to disabled consumers, and help disabled people be savvier consumers: – there is an open door for businesses to capitalise on the spending power of disabled people – the purple pound

Losing out

In a survey of over 2500 disabled people and their families, the Extra Costs Commission found that 75% have left a shop or business because it failed to meet their needs. Imagine a bar that cannot accommodate a wheelchair user – its not just losing 1 customer but friends and family as well. Small businesses are in a great place to really know their customers and make sure they are accessible. There is an opportunity to become attractive places for disabled people to send their money.

Of the people who left a shop or business (75%), respondents indicated the following

  • High street shop                      72%
  • Restaurant, pub or club          44%
  • Supermarket                           27%
  • Bank or building society          17%
  • Transport provider                  15%
  • Phone or internet provider     13%
  • Energy company                     6%

But some businesses are really smart and have made this knowledge a competitive advantage.

Targeting the Purple Pound

Some insurers have worked out the disabled people are careful drivers. When they have their cars modified it’s not to go faster. Adapted cars are stolen less… armed with this information they offer lower premiums…

And there are a lot of schemes out there for disabled people to be savvier consumers – in energy there is a priority services register for people to be eligible for cheaper energy – most disabled people don’t know about it…

What we really need is for those businesses to shout about their offers much more widely.

There is one car hire company that has adapted cars but hardly advertises the fact. A brilliant service but a well kept secret.

What happens next?

This report is out at the half way stage of the inquiry – The Extra Costs Commission final report comes out in June. At this stage the Commission wants to test their recommendations, gather more research and gauge peoples reaction to the report.

Please do read the report (PDF 2MB)  and send you feedback

Follow the debate on Twitter on #ExtraCosts