Very few companies market to the disabled, but this demographic is “a marketers’ dream come true,” says Nadine Vogel, founder and president of Springboard Consulting." />

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Reaching the Disabled Demographic

March 26 2009 | by

Nadine Vogel

Interview with Nadine Vogel:

While many marketers have increased outreach to multicultural audiences, very few have focused marketing efforts on the powerful disabled demographic. And that’s a poor business decision, says Nadine Vogel, founder and president of Springboard Consulting, which specializes in marketing to the disabled community. More than 20 million families in the U.S. have at least one member that has a disability. And in one out of every five households in the U.S., a family is caring for a child that has special healthcare needs, according to the Department of Labor. Vogel discusses her recent initiatives and why marketing to the disabled is really “a marketers’ dream come true.”

Q: Nadine, what’s so exciting about marketing to people with disabilities?
A: Well, first, the demographics are unbelievable. This is a huge, untapped market. People with disabilities have a combined income of nearly $800 billion in the U.S. It’s the largest minority market, surpassing the US Hispanic population by 5%. Aside from the statistics, the disabled community is a very loyal group, in part because so few companies reach out to them.

Q: Why have companies traditionally shied away from marketing to people with disabilities?
A: It’s because of a lack of information. They think the market is too small, too complicated, or not rich enough. Some companies are afraid they’ll do it wrong or get sued. None of this is true. For instance, the special needs community has two times the spending power of teens and 17 times the spending power of tweens. The parent population has the same income and assets as anyone else in the overall population. It’s really two markets – adults with disabilities and parents of kids with disabilities.

Q: What about the cost of building a marketing program when a company has never done it before?
A: A lot of companies are concerned about the cost of building a program for a market they’ve never tapped. But it actually costs less to reach this segment if you do it right because it’s a very networked community. Large global corporations are used to putting tens of millions of dollars behind something new. They don’t have to do that to reach this group. So few companies reach out to this group that any effort makes a difference. You can really start small and reach for the low-hanging fruit and that will mean the world to them.

Q: What’s an example?
A: I helped Sephora put together a Mother’s Day event for children with special needs and their mothers at Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. This is the first effort, ever, by a cosmetics company to market to the disabled. Kids with special needs and their mothers were invited to come into the store and try on any makeup they wanted, and get makeovers and hand massages. The salespeople were trained for disability awareness and to be conscious of the kids’ emotions and body language. A lot of these kids weren’t used to being treated as beauty queens, and on that day, they were princesses. About 100 people came, and from the feedback I’ve gotten we exceeded Sephora’s expectations. Another event is planned this year in California.

Q: What advice would you give marketers who are considering reaching out to the disabled demographic?
A: Avoid the pity factor. Just tell them that you want their business. Also, train the people who are running the programs and who will interact with the disabled people. Finally, think about the other members of a family of someone with disability, like the parents. For instance, if I’m looking to buy a new car, and my child has special physical needs, then I’m going to want to buy the safest and perhaps roomiest car possible. Market to the parents, too.

  • Judith

    Wonderful article.

    Lets hope some companies are reading.

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  • Karen Barbour

    This is a great article and website. I have shared it with the owner of my company who hopefully with share it with corporate. As a realtor, I have a unique mission to serve the disability community. This comes from my heart and life experience.

    Having a site like this will help more business owners see that its a win win to be in touch with disability issues. It definitely helps the community see that there is POWER IN NUMBERS.

  • Nancy Watkins

    Hi, great information. My daughter April-33-with Downs has started a soap making and gift company- Special Hands Artists- any ideas on how we can market with a very small budjet? This is probably not your field but any advice would be most welcome. Nancy and April

  • Darrell Huff

    I have a quadriplegic son who was in a car accident about two years ago. He did not have a head injury and is 100% cognative but he cannot push a button. From a quadriplegic’s point of view…one huge short coming of virtually all Cell Phones and Bluetooth headsets is the requirement to push a button to make a call and to perform other functions.

    I modified the BlueAnt V1 Bluetooth Headset for my so that does not require the push of any buttons. He can make and receive calls with a simple head movement and voice commands.

    Instead of pushing a button to make a call he simply has to tilt his head forward and the Headset will ask him to “Say a Command”. He can say things like “Home”, “Office”, “Favorite”, “Voicemail”, “Speed Dial 6”, etc…

    To receive a call the headset will announce the Caller ID and ask him if he wants to answer or ignore the call. To answer he says “Answer” and to ignore it and send it to Voicemail he says “Ignore”. There are many other voice commands like “Pair Me”, “Teach Me”, “Redial” etc…

    Just to be clear…the Headset is very small and there are no wires (or anything like that) connected to it. The modifications I made are mostly internal.

    The headset is based on the BlueAnt V1…but I make a modification that eliminates the nessessity to push a button to place a call (or for any other reason). I am in the process of creating a Website and will begin marketing it within the next few weeks.

    If you want more information feel free to send me an email

  • Lonnie Dillon

    Thanks for writing a post about this. You’ve got a bunch of wonderful information here on your website. really impressed! I have a few blogs that I try to keep reasonably live myself but it’s a struggle sometimes. You have done a very nice job with this one. How do you do it?

  • Darrell Huff

    nobuttonsheadset.comThe Bluetooth Headset (mentioned above) that does not require the user to push any buttons has been for sale for almost a year now.

    I call it the NoButtonsHeadset and have a Website…

    You never have to push any buttons to make a call or to receive a call. You can also use the headset with Dragon Naturally Speking software and with Skype (on a Bluetooth Enabled PC). Plus you can stream music to it from a computer or from a music phone.

    There is lots more information on the Website…

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