Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Services or Swervices?

Phil's picture
By: Phil

Over the past few weeks, I've become increasingly concerned about the struggles that some disabled people have when using or accessing the most basic customer service. Let me explain: the Guardian recently published a story about Anne Wafula Strike, a Paralympian wheelchair user who was forced to wet herself on a train because the accessible toilet was out of order. See more at this link here: http://bit.ly/2jw0Xzz

A few days later, Frank Gardner, a wheelchair user and BBC journalist, was left stranded on a plane after other people had left because the equipment needed to help him disembark was delayed. See more at this link here: http://bit.ly/2jvKYkV

Then Socitm (the Society of Information Technology Management) published research which revealed that one third of website home pages used by local authorities are not accessible to many disabled people. See more at this link here: http://bit.ly/2jvY41G

I guess these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure many of you have your own personal horror stories about the lack of accessible services. What troubles me is that legislation was passed back in 1995 that was supposed prevent these difficulties from arising. What’s going on?

  • Do financial stringencies have a part to play? I'm not convinced that this is the main reason.
  • For some service providers, are disabled and/or older consumers just a nuisance?
  • Do they think it’s less expensive or less complicated to ignore us?
  • Do they hope that by placing barriers in our way or by making life harder for us, we’ll go away?

Well, we’re not going away. But we’ve had, by necessity, to ‘swerve’ to get round the barriers; hence ’swervices’.

‘Swervices’ are services that don’t work properly.

Am I being harsh or exaggerating the situation? I don't think so. We’ve been complaining about the lack of appropriate customer service and access for years. Rica has promoted the benefits of inclusive design for decades. Collectively we’ve protested, sued and lobbied and, despite all this, our concerns continue to be disregarded.

Perhaps there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Doug Paulley's recent victory in the Supreme Court concerning wheelchair spaces on buses is a pointer to customer service providers that they’ll have to do more or face serious consequences. See more at this link here: http://bbc.in/2jGj3Bx

So what can you do?