An Undervalued Market: The Purchasing Power of People With Disabilities
Implications for Business Per the AMERICAN INSTITUTES FOR RESEARCH | AIR.ORG.
Although people with disabilities earn less than people without disabilities and represent a smaller share of the market, businesses should pay attention to this group for three reasons:
- Most businesses are not taking advantage of the nearly half a trillion dollars in market value of this population. Given that people with disabilities are part of families and communities, the number of people who could purchase goods and services for this population more than doubles.
- Societal shifts point toward growing numbers and greater inclusion of people with disabilities. Businesses that want to increase sales and positive brand recognition will invest in goods and services for this growing market. The return on investment is clear.
- The findings outlined in this report are conservative estimates of the purchasing power of people with disabilities. The market potential is even larger when one considers the friends, family members, caregivers, colleagues, and others who are connected to consumers with disabilities.
The implications for business and industry go beyond simply knowing the data on earnings, spending, disability type, and regional variation. To maximize revenue opportunities, the private sector can reassess its business strategy in terms of not only where people with discretionary income live but also whether products and services are developed specifically for these consumers. In other words, how are goods and services developed in collaboration with people who have disabilities and then marketed to them and their related consumer markets? And have businesses considered the return on investment of hiring more people with disabilities to attract brand loyalty? In an increasingly tight labor market, employers are finding that with low-cost accommodations, they can increase their supply of high-quality workers with disabilities.
Increasing market share can be accomplished by developing products that meet the needs of people with disabilities, marketing products to people with disabilities, and employing people with disabilities. Companies that have increased their inclusive hiring practices include Starbucks, Northrop Grumman, AT&T, and Ernst & Young.7 Companies recognize that hiring people with disabilities improves their bottom line while increasing customer loyalty.
*As ranked by the U.S. Business Leadership Network’s Disability Equality Index and referenced in Blahovec (2016)AMERICAN INSTITUTES FOR RESEARCH | AIR.ORG .