Tracing the trendlines of the disability economy and their relevance to the 21st century business landscape
Accessibility button on computer keyboard
The historical nature of the post-WWII disability economy has always been seen through the lens of a needs economy, often referring to legacy products such as crutches, wheelchairs, hearing aids, scooters, and various other goods and services centered on activities of daily living that include personal care, Body care, dressing up to eating. Yet over the last 75 years there has been a major tectonic shift in society, culture, technology and politics that is redefining our perspective of the disability economy and offering a new perspective that claims that this is an economy of scale with the potential to transform opportunity and future possibilities influence to create a vibrant marketplace of inclusion and innovation.
This Mindset Matters column will be the first in a series examining the shifting trendlines in today’s burgeoning disability economy and highlighting the impact it is having not only on the disability community itself, but also the impact it is having in transforming the business – and cultural landscape of the digital economy of the 21st century. As we begin to delve deeper into the deeper understanding of the slant of what characterizes today’s disability economy, we need to start with the word “accessibility” itself to provide some context.
Accessibility serves as an umbrella term for products and services that can be easily used, reached or entered by people with disabilities. However, under the same umbrella are terms like adaptive and even universal or inclusive design. These idioms have become central to a way of rethinking market segments empowered by the convergence of a changing social, political and technological climate that is redefining the way people with disabilities have begun to engage in the to engage the world. At the same time, however, the trendlines show that companies are beginning to realize that engaging in the disability economy is not just about embracing diversity and inclusion and ESG, it is simply about doing good business.
With the advent of social media, there are more diverse voices within the disability community urging that companies be responsible not only for the needs of people with disabilities, but also for the true value of the disability market that has consolidated from over a billion people Buyers have power over $8 trillion, and when you include the influence of friends and family, you can now argue that the market is affecting half the planet!
In upcoming Mindset Matters columns, we’ll delve deeper into more specific market segments, but for today it’s important to highlight the idea that the disability economy is in an ongoing state of development that is not just limited to the disability community, but rather is a critical market opportunity for consumers, investors, established companies and entrepreneurs to participate in a process that will eventually affect everyone. As we look to the future, the market’s growth is blossoming in a variety of areas, from young entrepreneurs with disabilities to the entry of established companies across a wide range of market segments covering everything from fashion, travel, gaming, the metaverse , web accessibility, automotive, film and television to financial services and much more. The role of accessibility in the marketplace is now becoming a real goal and crucial to the business conversations both in the present and in the future.
It is time to broaden our understanding of the current picture of the disability economy and to examine the tsunami of opportunities it has begun to unleash across market segments. Each week, Mindset Matters will delve deeper into key trendlines across the vast landscape of this ever-changing disability economy, focusing on specific areas that are redefining the business narrative that is creating a truly disruptive force.