Disabled people should accept the “badge of disability” in order to increase their profile as consumers and help drive down the extra costs they face, according to a new report.
The year-long Extra Costs Commission says that disabled people should come together as “bold and loud consumers” in order to capitalise on their collective spending power of more than £200 billion a year, in the same way that gay and lesbian people, and older people, have done.
An interim report by the commission has already found that someone with a neurological condition spends on average almost £200 a week on disability-related costs, while someone with a physical impairment spends almost £300 a week.
The commission – which examined the extra costs faced by disabled people in England and Wales, and was set up by the disability charity Scope – says that almost all disabled people report high extra transport costs, while most find it difficult to afford to buy insurance, and many pay more for housing, fuel and energy.
Robin Hindle Fisher (pictured), the commission’s disabled chair, said in a blog published alongside the final report that stigmatisation of disabled people was still having “hidden effects”.
He said: “One of them is the reluctance that many of us still feel to accept the badge of disability.
“But I now think this reticence is serving us badly. It certainly reduces our collective consumer influence – and thus contributes to the extra costs we face. Hence our call to disabled people to be ‘bold and loud’.”
In the report, he says: “Only by sharing information about our needs and expectations as shoppers, by complaining and speaking up when dissatisfied and by being more demanding as consumers, will companies have the market data to serve us better and to help reduce the cost of essential goods and services.”
Hindle Fisher, who has worked in the financial services sector for more than 30 years, and is now also a business coach, said: “The benefits of presenting a collective voice have been seen with the gay community and amongst older people.
“It is our view that it is time for disabled people to take similar action.”
The commission says businesses and trade organisations must also improve the customer experience of disabled people, and recognise their spending power.
And it says that disability organisations should improve the information and services they provide to disabled people and businesses, while regulators and government should “intervene” in markets where disabled people face “unfair extra costs”.
Other disabled experts who sat on the commission include Dr Phil Friend, a leading disability consultant and former chair of Disability Rights UK; Amo Raju, chief executive of Disability Direct; artist and presenter Sophie Morgan; and James Moore, deputy business editor of The Independent.
Among other recommendations, the commission says disabled people should share information about good deals and ways to reduce costs, through online disability communities and forums.
And it calls on the government to take action to improve web accessibility, and improve disabled people’s access to taxis and private hire vehicles.