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Getting started

Re-thinking disability

Over 11 million people in the UK are dealing with a long term illness, impairment or disability on a daily basis (ODI)1 ; With an estimated combined income of £212 billion among households with a disabled person2 ensuring your business is accessible can open new sources of revenue – known as “the purple pound”.

Accessibility icon of a wheelchair

The universal symbol for disability may be a wheelchair, but did you know that less than 8 per cent3 of disabled people use wheelchairs. The vast majority of impairments are not visible; hearing loss, sight loss, autism, anxiety, depression, diabetes are all examples of disabilities or health conditions which might not necessarily be perceptible to a stranger, but may require a different adaptation to be made in order for the customer to be appropriately and effectively served.

In any case, being able to see a disability doesn’t mean that we can know exactly what that person wants or needs; no two individuals’ capabilities are exactly the same. That’s why it’s important to consider how we can make our environments - be they bank branches, transport systems or office buildings - as easily navigable and user-friendly as possible. That way, no one has to be excluded, or be made to feel singled-out.

Most people do not ’label’ themselves as having an impairment or being disabled, they just happen to have different or additional needs; for example the person with an old leg injury who needs to use a seat with armrests or the person with tinnitus who finds noisy environments hard to concentrate in.

Only 17 per cent4 of people with a disability were born with it, the majority acquire their disability during their working lives and half of all over-75’s have some form of disability or impairment5. Add to that the fact that the UK is an ageing population, and it’s clear that the need for accessible services and product design is of growing importance.

Watch this video from Business Disability International^ (opens in a new window) highlighting that it’s not about disabled versus non-disabled people (us and them) but rather it’s about all of us.

What do we mean by accessibility?

Put simply, it’s the term to describe ‘access for all’. No business would like to think they are turning away potential custom and yet by not making your business as easy to access as possible, this is exactly what is happening.  

Accessibility icon of a hearing impairment sign

Accessibility isn’t only relevant for businesses with physical premises, it’s also important for online businesses with a ‘virtual door’ (does your website support the screen-readers used by people with visual impairments?), or those dealing by phone (do your staff know of tools such as Text Relay which can help people with hearing impairments?).

Opening your eyes to accessibility can also have far-reaching benefits for all customers, as building for more complex needs will often make it easier for everyone. Take for example shallow supermarket trolleys; these were originally designed for older customers as the original ones were heavy and unwieldy but the majority of customers now prefer to use them unless they have a large amount of shopping to do. Or, building ramps; which make it easier for people with pushchairs and suitcases, not just wheelchair users.

Identifying potential barriers

Unless you have a disability or impairment, it’s impossible to completely understand the full effect of what it’s like, physically, psychologically or emotionally, to experience its effects in daily life.

The social model of disability** is a way of thinking which states that disability is caused by barriers within society rather than an individual’s impairment. Through this lens, it’s possible to conceive that if all barriers could be removed – disability would cease to exist.

Service providers have an opportunity to remove potential barriers that people may face, therefore creating a more accessible society for all. However, anticipating or understanding potential barriers within your organisation can be difficult. So how can businesses start to think about what barriers may exist? Sections of this site (see below) go into greater detail about ways that businesses can be aware of barriers to access, but here we reflect on some of the methods Barclays has employed alongside those referenced elsewhere.

We have found that there are some effective and innovative methods, such as those listed below, which can let people temporarily experience some of the physical barriers people may encounter if they are older or have an impairment. Used in the right way, these tools could be useful for staff, such as those designing new premises or project teams who are developing new solutions, to help provide awareness of and practical insight about how to overcome barriers.

**Read more about the social model of disability^ (opens in a new window)

Missing out

We wanted to better understand the awareness of business owners on the subject of accessibility and inclusive design and so in February 2016 we commissioned some research which polled 500 Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Despite the potential market size (disabled people in the UK) and the value of the ‘Purple Pound’, almost one in five (18 percent) business owners are not sure what the benefit of making their business more inclusive would be, while a similar number (17 percent) say they would not know where to start or what adjustments would need to be made.

For 23 percent the costs of making their company accessible is too high and about 10 percent said it would be too much hassle. However, while the majority of UK companies are not currently applying ‘inclusive design’ - the process of making something more accessible and inclusive - to their business, over three quarters (77 percent) would if they had the right guidance.

Read the full Barclays Accessibility and Inclusive Design Report here PDF† (278KB) (opens in a new window) 

How can your business or organisation think about accessibility differently?

A 2015 report by the Extra Costs Commission found that more than 3 in 4 disabled customers and their families and friends had moved their business elsewhere as a result of a lack of disability awareness by specific service providers.

With this in mind, it’s good to start to think about the potential business value to you of becoming more accessible. Thinking about your business:

  • What age demographics do you serve? Do you know the statistics for the number and spending power of people with disabilities in the geographies you serve, whether for the UK or globally? 
  • What are your key distribution channels? Do you know how accessible they are?
  • How well are your staff trained to better understand and meet the needs of disabled colleagues and customers?
  • What small changes could you consider to make your business more accessible to a wider client base? Some examples of small simple changes are having a walking stick holder available at counters, seating being available in a waiting area or having hearing induction loops available on business premises. Steps into premises are an obvious barrier to people with impaired mobility, but have you considered how the acoustics in a room could also impact people with hearing impairments? For example, using a smaller meeting room with less background noise, or increasing soft furnishings in a space where there are many hard surfaces can make it easier for people to hear.
  • How inclusive is your workplace for disabled employees?

Read the full Extra Costs Commission Report (2015)^ (opens in a new window)

Sharing our learns

Whilst every business has a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for customers with disabilities (Equality Act 2010), experience has shown us that it’s those businesses which think outside of the box to remove physical and attitudinal barriers that experience the greatest commercial returns and customer satisfaction. Example business benefits could include: increased footfall and spend, improved customer advocacy, reduced complaints, positive PR and reduced ‘retrofit’ costs when utilising inclusive design principles from the outset.

    “Greater inclusivity for disabled people will drive competitiveness and profitability for business, and at the same time benefit society as a whole.”

    Narayana Murthy, Infosys Limited

Using our accessibility journey and some examples from some other forward-thinking businesses as a starting point, we have created a collection of resources to share with other businesses with the aim of promoting wider inclusion and adding value to our client relationships:

  • ‘Self-service’ offline resources and tools (articles, case studies, videos etc.), which can be used by different parts of your organisation, including; insight for building the business case for investment in accessibility
  • Inclusive design guidance for product development teams
  • Customer service training videos for frontline and call centre staff

This site will be regularly refreshed, as Barclays continues to create and come across examples of great practice and solutions. If you have examples that you would like to share, please contact us at

Inclusive workplaces

Attracting, supporting and developing a diverse workforce

Image of Three men sat at a desk in an office.

Inclusive customer service

We have created various support tools to help understand the needs of customers with different disabilities.

Image of a Lady wearing a hearing aid drinking in a coffee shop typing on a laptop.

Inclusive design

Accessibility matters in all aspects of business. Inclusive Design is a general approach to creating new products and services that address the needs of the widest possible audiences. 

Image of a Lady in an office in front of a whiteboard.

Collaboration and knowledge-sharing

No business should feel alone on their accessibility journey. We’ve found that great things can happen when you work together with like-minded individuals and organisations.

Image of a key note speaker at an accessibility event

For more information

For the latest updates on accessibility at Barclays follow us on Twitter @BarclaysAccess (opens in a new window) or go to (opens in a new window).

How can we help?

To discuss switching to Corporate Banking at Barclays, call us on: 0800 015 4242 *