Today is Saturday the 16th of March which is Disabled Access Day. It’s a national day to raise awareness of disability accessibility with lots of companies, establishments and businesses taking part in the day.
So I’m a disabled person, I have a visual impairment and I work with a guide dog. But I’m also a fashion and beauty blogger, I’ve worked with a lot of brands and I’ve a lot experience of the industry. Even though the industry is getting better towards disability inclusion when it comes to working with disabled influencers and accessibility there is still work to do done. Both industries still have a long way to go when it comes to being disability accessible.
So, in todays blog post I’m going to talk about my thoughts on how the fashion and beauty industry can be more accessible. I asked on Twitter and I got an overwhelming response from my disabled followers and their answers really have helped me to shape todays blog post.
So, without further ado let’s begin…
1. Website and App Accessibility
Let’s start with website and app accessibility, as I feel this is an area which is vital for many disabled people who find it difficult to physically get out to shop. I asked my disabled followers on a Twitter Poll if there were more likely to shop online or in store. 80% of them voted online and 20% in store.
As a visually impaired person who requires the use of assistive technology like screen reading devices some online websites and Apps can be very difficult to negotiate. Things like having poor colour contrast, too small text, videos the minute you load the website and no way to customise accessibility can all be big problems.
A lot of my disabled followers responses to my question that they thought more companies could improve by making their websites and Apps more accessible. Many felt that beauty and fashion retail websites didn’t provide enough description of things like clothing size, patterns and colour when it came to fashion and shade colours when it came to beauty.
So here are some key pointers for the website developers when it comes to accessibility…
- Keep it Clean. Make sure the website or App has a clear and easy layout. Make sure all the buttons and toggles are easy to find.
- Make the website easy to navigate, don’t have the first thing they see a video or flash pop up. It makes life incredibly difficult for screen reader users.
- Make sure the website or App has clear colour contrast, if the background is white make the text dark and visa versa.
- Ensure that the website or App is coded to be compatible with screen readers and other access features. Do this by labelling buttons, making it possible to zoom in on the webiste, ensuring images have alternative text and limiting pop ups which can interfere with screen readers.
- Make sure you provide detailed descriptions of items such as garments and makeup. When it involves clothes include detailed information on colour, pattern, style, care instructions and size. With beauty products make sure the website includes detailed information on the colour, shade range and ingredients.
- If you include videos on your website or App ensure that they provide transcripts or Closed Captions. If you cannot add them to the video directly, use a platform like YouTube where you can upload them.
- When modelling clothes, also photograph the models sitting down so that people who are wheelchair users can see how the clothes look in this position…(or better yet you could also employ wheelchair user models)
- Optional: Think about having your own accessibility toggle on your website or App with options to invert colours, greyscale and text size.
If a disabled customer or service user contacts you about your website with accessibility feature, please acknowledge it and take their feedback on board. All to often I hear stories of companies who simply respond with “we’ll look into it” and do nothing to improve there website. I even heard one story where someone got blocked by a company when they tired to give constructive website feedback. Which is very narrow minded on their part, because the disability community is a huge making up 15% of the worlds population. We are a huge market and it’s both moral and sensible to ensure that we as a huge portion of the consumer market are catered for.
What Others Said
Better descriptions on items online and ensuring that the website is fully accessible. Braille labels would also be so beneficial!Elin
“Pictures of clothes with models sat down!”Amy
“For me, descriptions of the models and what they are wearing with the items – inspiring me on what accessories, boots etc go with the outfit. Allowing my imagination to run wild and be inventive! The downside, encouraging me to buy more stuff and spend more money!”Stacy
“I think it’d be great if on the websites the colours were in colour order from lightest to darkest, like what even is the difference between beige and true beige.”Emily
“Use a variety of models with different disabilities and body types. Tell how to combine things, and describe colors and sizes better.”Anna
“Having specific measurements and descriptions of garments online. Also, care instructions would be incredibly helpful to list!|Veronica
“More distinctive packaging, easier to navigate websites and alting their pictures.”Luke
2. Social Media
Now, let’s talk social media. Luckily with social media a lot of websites like Twitter and Instagram are doing things to make their websites more accessible by adding accessibility features. All companies need to do is to use them and to follow a few simple guidelines to make sure that social media is accessible for their disabled following. If you want to read a very compressive blog post on websites, social media and accessibility check this blog post by My Blurred World who goes into a lot of detail on the subject.
One of the best things you can do for those with visual impairments on social media is the add a photo description. Add photo descriptions to pictures you share online. With Twitter and Instagram there is a specific option to add picture descriptions to an image for those with visual impairments. You just need to ensure it is activated and that you add a brief description of what the image is showing before you share it. With other websites like Facebook and Google, instead just write the picture description starting it with “Photo Description” or something of that nature.
If you use YouTube or you upload a video to social media, add closed captions or a transcript so that those with hearing loss or difficulty understanding English can watch the video.
If you tweet under a certain hashtag, be sure that you capitalise each letter of a world. For example instead of writing a hashtag like #disabledaccessday write it like #DisabledAccessDay. This is because screen readers do not pronounce a hashtag correctly when there is no capital letters to differentiate between each new world and it becomes very confusing for visually impaired people who rely on screen readers.
- Don’t use too many GIF’s: GIF’s are not accessible with screen readers.
- Add audio descriptions to videos where there is no audio feedback for those with visual impairments.
- Be sure to give descriptions to clothes, makeup looks and any products you are promoting online.
- Be sure you are conscious of disabled customer’s needs if they reach out to you via social media.
3. Packaging and Design
When I asked the question on Twitter, a lot of people had a lot to say about design and packaging. So, I’m going to split this into two sections on fashion and beauty.
The most important thing you can do as a brand if you want to make your products more accessible is to ask disabled customers.
If you are unsure, run focus groups, ask advice from disability bloggers, run surveys and polls and you will get feedback which will help you develop your products and make them more accessible.
Distinctive Packaging: With beauty products, especially ones in the same line a lot of the bottles can be indistinctive. This can make negotiating through products if you have a visual impairment very difficult. Make your products distinctive in size by having different sizes, different shaped bottles, lids and distinctive colours. Think of design strategies to make your products more distinctive and easy to differentiate.
Braille Labels: Think about adding braille to your products. Currently the only beauty brand to add braille to their products is L’Occitane. It’s an important feature to have and you could even think about having an option online, so that people can request a braille label if it is needed.
Print Size: A lot of the time the print on packaging is tiny and really difficult to see. I get it, sometimes it’s physically not possible to make print any bigger if its a small item. But just try and make it as clear and big as possible.
Colour Contrast: Make sure your items have good colour contrast and distinctive colours to make it easier to see.
Easy Grip: Make your products easy to hold and to open. Think about making products like pencils, pens, liners and other shapes ergonomic so that they are easier to grip.
QR Codes: Add QR codes onto an item so that a person can scan it and be directed to it’s page where they can find out further information on it.
Durability: Make your products durable, make them more sturdy so that if they are dropped they will be less likely to bread.
Palettes: When you make palettes make them easy to open for those with dexterity issues and make each colour separate in it’s own pan so that people with visual impairments can distinguish each colour.
Universal Sizing: One thing that needs to change drastically across the board is sizing needs to become universal. A size 10 should be the same across all clothing companies and fit according to a standard sizing guide that all companies must comply with.
Comfortable Clothing: Make clothing both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. Make shoes easy to slip on, make jeans and skirts comfortable and easy to adorn.
Buttons and Zips: Make things less fiddly with less buttons and zips so that it is easy for someone with mobility issues to get dressed.
Different Postures: When you make garments think about how they will look when someone has a different posture, for example if someone has to sit down.
Adapted Clothing: Think about adding adapted clothing to your company for people with different disabilities that may require equipment like feeding tubes or for those with prosthetic limbs or who are amputees.
Label Sizing: Make labels easy to read and make care instructions clear for those with limited eyesight.
Fabrics: Make clothing in breathable, comfortable fabrics like cotton, linen and terrycloth. Certain disabilities can cause physical pain in limbs, skin irritation and inflammation. So comfort with clothing is absolutely key.
Garment Care: Make garments easy to wash and in fabrics that don’t require a lot of maintenance. Having a disability having to wash and maintain clothes can become a real chore, so the easier they are to maintain the better.
Shoe Comfort: When designing shoes think about how comfortable they are to wear, how easy they are to put on and the structure of the heal. Things like adding a small platform or adding a strap can really help make a heeled shoe so much more sturdy and secure.
What Others Said
“Braille labels help.”Angie
“Braille labels for sure. Usually product labels are very inaccessible so even if they put QR codes on their labels that could be scanned by your smart phone that reads product descriptions would be good.”Jonathan
“Braille labels, a way of differentiating between different shades in pallets,, giving a description of colours in an accessible format somewhere such as the website, distinct packaging and good descriptions of the products online.”Holly
“Fewer buttons…anything Iess fiddly to do up! More ‘secret’ fastenings i.e. velcro on things that look buttoned up, slip on shoes that look laced up…if you know what I mean!”Heather
“Braille labels, better contrasting colours, I’d like to see pallets have a definite barrier between each shade and a way of reading the colours either on a weblink in detail and descriptions of those colours locations in palette!”Marie
“I would like to find clothes that take into account how sitting down all day can change the got, eg making short skirts rise up etc.”Leah
Perhaps packaging should be larger as well for those with limited mobility, with easily gripped bottles or tactile grips that would support those who need a bit more assistance in that area. I think packaging should have tactile indicators. A circle for blush, for example if we’re talking makeup, a square for eyeshadow, etc. I also think, for colored items, the color should be brailed on the packaging.Sirena
“Clothes that actually fit, not skin tight so they can be worn comfortably. Across the board sizing.”Undercovered Myths
4. Store Accessibility
Often one of the big reasons why disabled followers prefer shopping online is because stores are simply not accessible enough. Often I’ve been to stores with my guide dog and they’ve been cramped, I’ve almost been bashed in the head by clothing rails or there have been huge boxes in the way making it difficult to shop.
I work in retail myself, in a beauty company. So I know how hard things like visual merchandising and layout can be, especially if it’s busy or you haven’t got a lot of space to work with. I understand. But, it’s important to try and ensure that stores are accessible as possible for disabled customers.
- Layout: Make sure the layout is spacious and easy to navigate. People with wheelchairs, assistance dogs, mobility aids and prams need space to be able to move through a store. Make sure there is enough room for them to move with ease and don’t leave boxes or other stocking equipment lying around where it can get in people’s way.
- Display: When displaying items, make sure everything is neat and tidy and that everything is in it’s place. Have a system for organising thing and stick to it, try not to move things around and drastically change a layout if it’s become familiar. Don’t cram clothes in, making it hard to see what is what, try and keep on top of organising things by sizing.
- Ramps: Make sure your store has ramp access.
- Lifts: If your store has a downstairs include a lift and make sure it is always in working order.
- Lighting: Have good lighting, make sure it isn’t too harsh or too dingy for those with a variety of sensory and cognitive disabilities.
- Accessible Changing Rooms: Make changing rooms more accessible with larger space, lower down hooks and hoists so that people with disabilities can use the changing room and try on clothes the same as anyone else.
- Disabled Toilets: Make sure you accommodate by adding a disabled toilet if you are providing toileting facilities with all the needed equipment and space.
- Doors: Think about doors, if they are manual doors is there someone on hand to open them? Automatic doors are great for disabled people especially those with guide dogs, wheelchairs or mobility issues.
- Hearing Loops: Offer hearing loop systems for people with hearing aids who might need them.
- Music: Be mindful of the music playing, is it too loud or distracting? Music can often be a huge deterrent for people with sensory and cognitive disabilities for a variety of reasons.
- Accessibility Information: List all relevant accessibility information about your stores on your website.
5. Staff Training
Staff training is essential to proving good disability confidence customer service, there are plenty of charities and organisations that can support companies to either develop their own training programme for staff and management or work with a training company to deliver it.
Honestly, having a Disablity confidant member of staff can really be a positive thing not only for the disabled person, but for the business as well.
A lot of beauty brands offer free consultations which I think can be fantastic for people who have disabilities and need more assistance with getting to grips with makeup and products. Some fashion brands like Topshop also offer personal shopping services in certain stores and many shopping centres like Intu offer a personal shopping service which gives you access to stores in the shopping centre.
But, there are some key things that staff members should know about when it comes to disabled customers…
- Assistance Dog Awareness: Ensuring that all staff and security know about assistance dogs and the different types of assistance dogs. Sometimes I’ve been refused access to stores because security or staff members don’t know about guide dogs and the laws surrounding them when it comes to entering establishments. So, this is an area that is paramount. It’s not only a horrible thing for an assistance dog owner to experience, but it could be detrimental to the company if a staff member refuses an assistance dog owner access, because they are not aware of the law.
- Guiding: Ensuring they are confident at knowing how to guide someone with a visual impairment and basic guiding techniques.
- Deaf Awareness: If someone is deaf or hard of hearing be sure to face them so that if they can lip read they can see what you are saying.
- Offering Support: Being on hand to offer support to a disabled customer is offering support, asking if we need any assistance and being disability confidence. Giving detailed descriptions of products and clothing if a person cannot see it can also help as well.
What Others Said
“Offering descriptions when in store.”Chloe
As a disabled influencer, one of the most important things you can do as an industry is to include us.
Represent us, work with us and normalise us.
I’ll admit brands are certainly getting better when it comes to representing diversity, disability included. Many influencers like Jordan Bone and Molly Burke have worked with affluent beauty brands like Dove and L’Oreal. Benefit recently signed Kate Grant a model with Down Syndrome to appear in their brand campaigns and slowly we are seeing more disabled models like Kelly Knox at fashion week.
I myself as an influencer have had the opportunity to work with brands like Being by Sanctuary and Superdrug on their brand campaigns. I also often get to work with many brands on new releases and its a wonderful feeling to be included and to represent the disability community within a brand campaign.
But, that doesn’t mean to say that all brands are doing enough to represent us in their brand campaigns.
- Use disabled models to show your clothes and how they look on different body types.
- Showcase disabled people in your adverts.
- Work with disabled bloggers, content creators and social media influencers in your campaigns. There are plenty of us, so you have no excuse!
- Work with disabled people in advertorial projects regularly, not as a one off. We deserve to be represented all the time, not just once in a while.
Represent us in your adverts, work with disabled influencers in your online campaigns and show that you believe disability inclusion matters. Don’t just showcase us once every so often, we deserve to be an integral part of your advertorial demographical all the time.
What Others Said
“Show our faces in your adds, make your products useful for us.Carmela
“Include disabled people in every part of the industry from models & shop staff to designers & promoters.”Cheryl
So that concludes todays blog post, I really hope you enjoyed it and you found it useful. Do let me know in the comments if you have anything else to add to the conversation.
Also if you enjoyed this blog and want to show your support you can buy me a Ko-Fi via the button below. This blog took a long time to research and write, so any support for my time would be greatly appreciated.
Also be sure to share this blog and share it with your favourite brands to raise awareness of disability accessibility.
Thanks so much for reading and I will see you all next time!