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WEC calls for accessible product design by default, including for bank cards and websites to empower disabled consumers

19 March 2024

Businesses must consider the needs of disabled consumers from the outset when designing their products and services and not treat accessibility as an “afterthought”, the Women and Equalities Committee has warned.

The cross-party committee of MPs called on companies to adopt inclusive design by default for products and services or risk restricting disabled consumers’ options and missing out on the spending power of disabled households estimated to be worth £274 billion per year.  

The Committee’s report entitled ‘Accessibility of products and services to disabled people’ cautioned that many private sector websites continue to “fall short” of what is required to make them accessible to disabled consumers at a time when online services, information and social networks are increasing.

The report, the second of three based on its findings during an inquiry into the National Disability Strategy (NDS) noted that despite being recognised as an issue in the NDS published in July 2021, the Government has “still not acted on its commitment to address the problem”.

Currently, only the public sector must follow specific regulations that require their websites and applications to conform to international web accessibility standards.

WEC called on the Government to “resolve this as a priority” and make private sector websites and applications which provide essential products and services subject to the same regulations as the public sector.


The report recommended that ministers should work with businesses, the Disability and Access Ambassadors and Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs) to lay the ground for legislative action across the other parts of the private sector, adding the Government should provide an update on its progress on this recommendation within six months of the report’s publication.

It also called on the Government to task the Disability and Access Ambassadors with engaging with businesses on inclusive design, to seek out and share best practice and to identify the barriers to making products and services in their sectors accessible to disabled people. The Government should then work with each sector to discuss relevant interventions and develop guidance on best practice, it added.

Disabled people face additional costs in their daily lives, the report noted, recommending the Government establish an Extra Costs Taskforce as a priority and by no later than summer 2024.

The introduction of flat bank cards and the phasing out of embossed cards is leaving some disabled people, particularly those who are blind or partially sighted struggling to conduct financial tasks independently, the report warned.

While some banks and financial providers have issued debit and credit cards with tactile indicators, this is not standard practice across the banking sector.

WEC recommended the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) should work with the retail banking sector and organisations such as the RNIB to ensure all banks embrace inclusive design from the outset and provide flat bank cards which are accessible to disabled people with tactile indicators and a clear visual design.

Banks and providers of cash points, it added, must ensure all machines have been approved by disabled users, are installed in locations accessible to all and regularly checked so accessible features are in working order.

The report also raised the inaccessibility of some food packaging for disabled consumers and recommended the Government should review its food labelling guidance, while considering new technologies and tools such as NaviLens, to ensure a minimum accessibility requirement on food packaging's essential nutrition, health and pricing information.

Chair's comment

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP said:

“Disabled people shouldn’t face unnecessary barriers when using online shopping and services. Despite the untapped potential of the purple pound, not all businesses are considering the needs of disabled consumers. Accessibility must be prioritised with inclusive design by default for products and services.

“Given that access to online services, information and social networks is increasingly part of everyday life for all, it is imperative that the Government acts on what it has described as the "persistently poor accessibility of private sector websites" without further delay.

“While some banks and financial providers have innovated to make their services accessible to blind and partially sighted customers, such as issuing cards with tactile indicators, this needs to be standard practice across the sector as providers continue to phase out embossed cards and introduce flat bank cards.”

Further information

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