These changes represent a valuable business opportunity, as there are around four million Australians – or one in five people – with some form of disability, according to the Australian Network on Disability (AND).
This is something of an underserved market, with a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission noting one in three people with disability believe their customer needs are often unmet.
Working with clients with disability
Although some businesses and employees lack confidence in working with people with disability, the most important thing to remember is to treat each person with respect.
“The key thing is not to make assumptions about clients with disability, and what they need or want,” explains AND’s Deputy CEO, Amy Whalley.
“Our three guiding principles are: always ask rather than assume about a person’s situation; the individual is the best person to know what they need; and finally, every person’s experience of disability is as unique as their fingerprint.”
In most situations, working with clients with disability simply involves good customer service.
“It is important to be proactive and always be asking if something can be done differently. It shows you can, want to and understand the need to do things to provide excellent service to all clients,” Whalley notes.
For example, “If you are sending a lot of documentation, consider the accessibility of the documents and if a client may require information in an alternate format,” suggests Whalley.
Financial planning and disability
Whalley believes financial advisers should view the situation in the same way as working with any new customer, and not assume a client with disability has limited financial knowledge or experience.
“The level of skills, capabilities and education of people with disability is often underestimated, and that can get in the way when it comes to servicing this client group,” Whalley explains.
“People with disability may have been managing their finances for a long time and may have multiple university degrees.”
As the NDIS expands, financial advisers may see more clients seeking help.
“Some people with disability have not had this control before, so they may need assistance with financial management. However, it is important to support people’s ongoing right to choice and control of their finances,” says Whalley.
Advisers need to recognise an individual’s experience can change over time. A disability may be temporary or permanent, total or partial, and lifelong or acquired.
“Each person’s experience of disability is unique. They may not have lived with disability since birth, so it is important not to make any assumptions. They are always the best person to explain what is required,” she explains.
Whalley explains that an important point in working with clients with disability is to use inclusive, person-first language.
“You should refer to someone as a client first, not ‘our disabled client’,” she says.
“It’s also important to get away from emotive and negative language, such as ‘wheelchair bound’, as many people with disability enjoy much greater independence by using a wheelchair.”
The key is to see each client as an individual.
“It is important to remember a person’s disability is only one part of them. It is important not to focus on their disability, but rather the person.”
To learn more about becoming a disability-confident business, there are resources available on the AND website.
7 tips for communicating with clients with disability
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Important: This article has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial or taxation situation or needs of any particular individual. Before acting on the information, you should consider its appropriateness to your circumstances and if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. Any information used in this article is for illustrative purposes only. Amy Whalley is external and not a member of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Group of Companies (the Group) and the content or any view expressed by Amy Whalley does not represent an endorsement, recommendation, guarantee or advice in regard to any matter. CBA, nor members of the Group accept any liability for losses or damage arising from any reliance on external parties their products, services and material. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.