1st June 2023

Is technology leaving people with disabilities behind?

Rachel Lowenstein, Global Head of Inclusive Innovation, Mindshare

We live in a time of rapid technological growth – but what does that mean for people with disabilities?

For this, we're diving into a particular sector, Quick Service Restaurants (QSR), and seemingly simple parts of the consumer experience that are years behind on accessibility - for example, digital presence, employee interactions, ordering. So how can QSR brands innovate for the inclusion of people with disabilities and access a market with a global buying power of $8 trillion USD?

Firstly, let’s dig into why this is important. Digital touchpoints are a core component of our everyday lives; from the time we wake up to check our morning phone notifications, to the time we lay in bed endlessly scrolling TikTok before we fall asleep, our day-to-day has been simplified and streamlined with the use of technology. We can now order a meal within minutes on our phone, if not seconds with saved orders, information, and Face ID payment at checkout. Obviously many sectors have adapted to this digital revolution. What isn’t so obvious is the unintended consequences of brands not innovating for inclusion can have on the world’s largest minority of people with disabilities – and the business risk that can occur with inaccessible innovation.

QSRs are a ripe category for driving inclusive innovation with people with disabilities for a variety of reasons. While people with disabilities control $8T in global spending, they’re also twice as likely to live in poverty compared to their non-disabled counterparts, making accessibility in food both a conversation about disability and income. 

QSRs have expanded their digital food ordering services into a simple efficient task from the comfort of your home, forgoing the drive-thru all together, making their brand experience accessible to a variety of people with abilities from physical disabilities to cognitive ones who may struggle with an in-restaurant experience. However, there are many pain points within the QSR ecosystem that make accessibility a major opportunity for organizations. 98% of websites and apps fail to comply with accessibility requirements for people with disabilities (isemag.com). 

Here are four ways for brands to innovate for the improved accessibility:

Conduct a full UX audit across channels

In-store, digital, social, from the lens of diverse disabilities. In order to do that, you need to treat what you might consider edge cases as the typical. Said differently, treat people with disabilities and our needs as your customers across the entire ordering experience. You’ll clearly start to identify pain points and opportunities to innovate. UK retailer, Marks & Spencer, briefed Mindshare to drive awareness of its long-standing bra-fitting service. But working with Diversity Standards Collective, through extensive research we identified areas across its business where it could transform beyond media, and fundamentally adapt how it operates, products and services it offers, and representation in its marketing. For example, people with disabilities felt excluded since there was a lack of representation and drive to use its bra-fitting service. M&S changed its fitting room layouts, offered new online fitting services, extended the product range to factor in differences shapes, sizes, skin tones. 

Unlock growth opportunities by treating accessibility as a creative exercise rather than a compliance one.

McDonald’s Israel did this by partnering with Rightear, installing tiny Bluetooth sensors in McDonald’s store allowing information for visually impaired people to be read to them immediately. Through Righthear’s app, information for visually impaired restaurant go-ers helps create an accessible experience on locating the bathroom, reading emergency evacuation protocols, menus, and plaque inscriptions. 

Make training, learning and development a priority.

Many QSRs lack basic training for their staff on accessibility. Drive-thru experiences continue to be inaccessible for both visually impaired and deaf people. The sensory experience of QSRs is a nightmare if you’re autistic.

Involve people with disabilities in marketing decisions.

People with disabilities know how to innovate for inclusion because endure the barriers created when you don’t. It’s why the best executions focused accessibility have had people with disabilities leading the charge because we have the lived experience and expertise.

To close, accessibility is a creative opportunity for many industries, but especially for mass available categories like QSR. By innovating for the inclusion of people with disabilities, marketers are opening the door for both social and business impact.

Mindshare Global
    Mindshare Global