Harrogate retailers helped to ‘Think Access’

! Pictured are The Cheese Board owner, Gemma Aykroyd, and Josh McCormack, Disability Action Yorkshire’s Think Access Co-ordinator

A Harrogate charity has been called in by town centre shop keepers to help them become more accessible for disabled customers.

Josh McCormack, Disability Action Yorkshire’s Think Access Co-ordinator, has started working with independent retailers on Commercial Street, keen to increase their customer base, which in turn will benefit the local economy.

Across the UK, the ‘Purple Pound’ – the consumer spending power of disabled people and their families – is worth £249 billion, and pre Covid was rising by an average of 14 per cent a year.

One of the first businesses to invite Josh to audit their premises was The Cheeseboard. Whilst the shop is relatively small and is accessed via a step,  Josh’s advise was simple – place a sign in the window saying ‘if you can’t come into to us, we will come out to you’.

Josh said: “More and more businesses are now looking at making their premises accessible to all, particularly as online shopping became a way of life during the three national Covid lockdowns.

“In many cases, becoming accessible need not cost a penny. Whilst The Cheeseboard couldn’t do anything in terms of making physical alterations to their shop, or the step up into it, a simple sign in the window letting customers staff will go out to them clearly demonstrates their customer care and friendliness.

“And let’s remember, it’s not just those in wheelchairs who have accessibility issues; just think about parents with prams and pushchairs, and those with walking frames.

“Businesses are starting to realise the value of the ‘Purple Pound’, and to become accessible they need someone who can advise them.

“My role at Disability Action Yorkshire is to go into a business, conduct an audit, and them produce a report. We are very keen to work with businesses across the town, and district, who want to become accessible.”

Josh added: “Disabled people want to enjoy the same experiences as everybody else, and a business becoming accessible makes complete sense.

“For those who don’t, they are turning down the opportunity to engage with a large section of society, and one that has money to spend.”

Gemma Aykroyd, the owner of The Cheeseboard, said: “I’d like to thank Josh for visiting our shop and speak to me about what we could do to become more accessible. Whilst the limited space and step are a barrier, Josh offered us some very practical and simple advice.

“We pride ourselves on our products and our customer service. This simple measure says we will go that extra mile, ensuring we cater for everyone.”

Businesses interested in speaking to Josh about an accessibility audit call Disability Action Yorkshire on 01423 855 410.

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