The Business of Age-Friendly

A clothes store with jackets hanging and a table with other clothes.Many businesses would like to expand their customer base to include older people and people with disability, but not sure how to do it. Utilising a checklist is one way to start thinking about it. Several organisations have produced checklists and other information to help businesses understand what they can do. Much of it costs little or nothing. Here are just three.

COTA TAS has a checklist that has a rating scale from excellent to needs work. It covers external environments, shop entrances, safety, comfort, and staff training, and much more. It’s nine pages and easy to read.

AgeUK has a more comprehensive document that provides the reasoning behind some of the “Top Tips’. These include telephone interactions, websites, and resolving complaints. Toilets, seating and other physical factors are also included. This is a report based on consumer workshops.

Of course being age-friendly means being friendly to all ages. Many of the suggestions are compatible with the needs of people with disability as well. The NSW Business Chamber has produced a guide for small business based on improving accessibility for everyone. However, this short online guide is not easy to read with small text and lots of graphics. It was based on the original Missed Business? by Marrickville Council and the Australian Human Rights Commission. It is also useful for local government authorities.

Communicating at Camp Manyung

Front cover of Communication Access for AllWe all like to get our message across. Communication access is just as important as physical access. So what are the communication barriers that some people face? It might be reading, understanding spoken language or having difficulties speaking. So the way that signs and written communication are designed are as important as well-trained staff. 

A blue and white symbol showing the outline of two faces looking at each other with arrows going both ways between them.Camp Manyung has been a leader in inclusive youth camp facilities and activities. Now they have increased their level of inclusiveness by gaining communication accreditation from SCOPE. Reception staff and activity staff can now communicate with everyone throughout the camp experience. Staff wear the international communication symbol so that they are easily recognised by visitors.

Access Insight magazine has an article on communicating at Camp Manyung that describes the process and outcomes in more detail. 

SCOPE has videos that show how a person trained in communication access uses their skills. 

Customer Engagement by Universal Design

Front cover of the toolkit with three overlapping circles, bright pink, purple and turquoise.Communicating effectively with customers is essential for any business or government service. And right now, online communication is taking centre stage. 

The new guide for Online Meeting Accessibility is a supplement to the Customer Communications Toolkit for Public Service. It takes you through the steps of planning and conducting an online meeting, and following up afterwards. The focus is on accessibility and inclusion with many helpful tips.

The Customer Communications Toolkit for Public Service covers planning, training and informing staff and contractors. It takes a universal design approach and is useful for any organisation.

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design has two more toolkits  for private and public entities. They are guides to effective and inclusive communication using a universal design approach. 

Customer Engagement in Tourism Services Toolkit covers best practice guidance for customer engagement using case studies. The four sections cover business objectives, written communication, face to face, and web communication.

Customer Engagement in Energy Services provides best practice guidance for customer communication. In four parts it covers: written form, face to face, telephone and video.

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design has many more resources on the built environment, products and services and technology/ICT.

The process for developing the guidelines and what was learned covers research, policies, standards and guidelines. Lessons from Good Practices to Guide Universal Design Toolkits includes advice for other toolkit authors. 

Design for Dignity Guidelines

The Design for Dignity guidelines cover all the elements in a major urban renewal project. The guide is based on the principles applied in the development of Barangaroo South in Sydney. It covers public domain, wayfinding, commercial and retail precincts, and workplaces. Stakeholder engagement is also covered. The pictures clearly explain the do’s and don’ts and why the details matter. The guide is comprehensive and easy to read, and has a list of resources at the end.

The story behind these guidelines began when Lend Lease commenced the development of Barangaroo South, Their policy was to to go beyond compliance – the bare minimum in access. They felt they could do better and strive for a universal design approach. With the assistance of Australian Network on Disability (AND) and Westpac, they developed Design for Dignity Guidelines: Principles for beyond compliance accessibility in urban regeneration.  An excellent resource for interior designers as well as urban planners.

Online Meetings: Middle Class Standard Time?

A laptop screen shows several faces of people who are meeting online.Are your online meetings inclusive? Or did you get caught up in a middle class meeting culture? An article from The Commons discusses this and the need to consider the wellbeing of the group while trying to get through every agenda item. The article lists some key phrases that indicate you might be driving the meeting to hard and fast. For example, “As you can see, we’re packing a lot in today”, and ” We’ve got a lot of ground to cover in the time”. Phrases like these indicate you might be on Middle Class Standard Time says Andrew Willis Garcés.

Garcés discusses middle class values in the context of the business meeting. Workaholism, formal relationships, focus on task above all else, hierarchy and conflict avoidance. He goes on to look at the consequences of the Middle Class Standard Time and ways to avoid them. Other resources include, Leading Groups Online

A really insightful piece that can help us to recognise our biases and improve our online meetings. Easy read.

 

Inclusive Towns: business, tourism and employment

A multicoloured logo of overlapping circles.The Inclusive Towns project is about increasing the participation and inclusion of people with disability. It presents the arguments heard before about missing out on potential business by ignoring this group and their fellow travellers. What makes this project different is help with employment of people with disability. The project produced a website with four key guides:

Links to many other helpful resources are included on this website including one on accessible events.

The project is a partnership between the City of Greater Bendigo, Loddon Shire & Mount Alexander Shire in Victoria. It was funded by the NDIS. 

A wheelchair user enters the frame on the left hand side. The background is a blurred out cafe setting.

More Insights and Less Afterthoughts

A bald man is standing behind a shop counter that has cheese and other deli items.Hospitality magazine has a good article on making small business accessible. It recommends thinking about access and inclusion from the start, not as an afterthought. And it isn’t all about wheelchairs. Being able to read the menu without getting out your phone flashlight to see it is a start. While Braille menus would be great, reading the standard menu to someone who is blind and sitting alone is essential, not just a courtesy. The assistance dog is not expected to read it. And this isn’t just about the law.

“While many businesses adhere to protocol, they still aren’t doing enough to truly welcome customers with a disability. A ramp might allow access to the premises, but is there enough room for diners to move around freely once seated?” However, some developers are thinking ahead.

“The Lendlease team took into account everything from footpath width and the design of entryways to countertop heights and amenities when building the King Street precinct in Brisbane.

At the end of the article, Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought, is a list of organisations that can help businesses improve their customer service and repeat business. City of Melbourne has an infographic on Good Access is Good Business. It has the key points on a page. However, infographics are not accessible to people who use screen readers. 

 

A picture can paint the wrong words

Shutterstock image of a young person being pushed in a hospital wheelchair. The occupant is obviously a model that doesn't look like they have a disability.Time to bring photographers along with the universal design movement together with those who choose stock photos.  For those who understand the issues with the picture shown, there is no need to explain. But there are many others who see two good looking young people, one in a wheelchair being pushed by the other. They are wearing bright colours and looking happy as they make their way through an empty shopping mall. For the uninitiated there are three key issues with these companion pictures.

  • First, it perpetuates the stereotype that wheelchair users must be helped by being pushed rather than mobilising independently. A person walking alongside would be better. 
  • Second, it is clear that both of them can walk as they change places with each other to be pushed in the chair. There are many wheelchair-users who could be models and wouldn’t need to be pushed.
  • Third, the type of wheelchair is usually found in a hospital setting. It is not one that a person would normally own let alone use it to go shopping. Wheelchair-user models would come with their own wheelchair.

Wheelchair users are not the only way to convey diversity or disability. The majority of disabilities are invisible, e.g. low vision, hearing loss, heart disease. So pictures of groups of people from all walks of life are much better. Too many of these pictures show a lone wheelchair user in places devoid of other humans. This is not real life.

Images are used for a reason – to convey a message. Let’s make sure they convey the right messages.  

Advertising needs to grow up

Two women sit on a bird nest swing.Time to challenge the entrenched marketing theory of market segmentation by age. It follows mindless formulas and plays into stereotypes about older people as needy and helpless. Buying online is increasing in older age groups. Why marketing to seniors is so terrible highlights some of the issues in sectioning out older people in a negative way, or worse in a patronising way. Here is an excerpt from the article:

THE ONE UNIVERSAL TRUTH ABOUT AGING
The most surprising finding Tuma and her team discovered was when they asked people to envision an aging utopia–and an aging dystopia. In every single country surveyed, the utopia had generations living together in harmony, learning from each other, and helping one another other. The dystopia, conversely, strictly segregated young and old. Which one do we see most in advertising today?

When was the last time you saw anyone over 55 in a decent ad? The world of oldsvertising is a hellscape full of reverse mortgages, erectile dysfunction pills, and bathtubs that won’t kill you.

Time to focus on attitudes, not age. No more patronising pictures of older hands, thank you – real life please.