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You’re making progress and that’s an awesome start.

Ticking off even a couple of items in this diagnostic is a great start.

But if your aim is to get a leg up on your competitors, bring in new customers and build a loyal, return customer base, then you might need to consider a bigger commitment to inclusion of people with invisible disabilities.

So how do you become more inclusive?

There are three critical steps that apply to every organisation’s quest for greater customer inclusion. These are the most powerful ways you can engage customers with invisible disabilities and radically change how they experience your brand.

1. Ask your customers directly for input

Just asking your customers whether they have invisible disabilities and what challenges they face in interacting with your business will show you care.  It will also be a huge step forward on most of your competitors.

Ask them:

  • What steps do they take when interacting with your business?
  • What are they thinking about and feeling at each step?
  • What are they stressed out by?
  • What are they trying to avoid?
  • What are they trying to achieve?

Finding the answers to these questions can help you understand your customer’s experience. We suggest you take what you learn and conduct a customer journey mapping exercise.

There are some great customer journey mapping resources available that can help provide structure to this process.

This exercise will help you make accurate, cost effective adjustments to your customer experience so you can channel your investment to the actions or changes that will mean the most to your customers.

2. Help them plan by highlighting the ways you support their inclusion

For families with invisible disabilities, preparation is key. Understanding the risks in physical environments and having a plan if things go wrong can help make an anxiety-inducing experience, much more comfortable.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, our network of over 100,000 families with invisible disabilities have reported the following issues to be of greatest importance:

  • How to access the store/location
  • Map of store or venue including
    • How to access
    • Alternative queuing options/entry and exit points
    • Disabled parking
    • Location of facilities such as quiet rooms
    • Bathrooms, especially family friendly ones
    • Exits, especially ones that are easy to exit from
    • Hazards including water, car parks, renovations, temporary installations etc
  • Social story, interactive maps or video tours to use to prepare the person with an invisible disability of what to expect. Familiarity prevents feeling overwhelmed.
  • Cancellation policies – Flexible cancellation policies e.g. Ability to transfer or cancel without penalties due to unpredictability of health condition and mood. Inflexible cancellation policies clearly displayed or communicated.
  • Flexible entry and exit times to avoid crowds
  • Any special consideration for sensory needs such as quiet hours, or periods where lighting, noise, scents and other sensory inputs are minimised.
  • If BYO food is permitted
  • If iPads are permitted
  • If assistance dogs are permitted.
  • If Companion Cards or other initiatives that support participation of people with invisible disabilities are accepted.
  • Clear signage and more of it
    • Bathroom
    • Exits
    • Busy/noisy areas e.g. amplified sound, mechanical noises
    • Areas of high traffic etc.
  • Provide larger, unmarked cubicles in regular toilets help families discreetly manage toileting needs.

If your business accommodates any of these, make sure you let your customers know at as many touch points as possible.

3. Empathetic, non-judgmental customer service can repair almost anything

It’s an unfortunate fact that most people with invisible disabilities and their families expect to be misunderstood and judged in the course of day. They expect staff to make mistakes.

What stands out is when the people involved in the situation show empathy and make an attempt to be understanding and supportive. When things go wrong, this personal approach goes a long way towards repairing damage in customer relationships.

No matter your industry, just about every faux pas, accident or misstep can be de-escalated – or  conversely, escalated – by how your staff handle the situation.

With over 1.2 million Australians affected by invisible disabilities (at a very conservative estimate), this is a niche that is much larger and more powerful than you think.

Smart organisations know that diversity and inclusion are the way of the future, so getting a jump start on this significant audience makes commercial sense.

If you would like to understand more about how your business can support inclusion and reap the commercial rewards,

feel free to get in touch.