On the occasion of the International Day of People with Disabilities – initiated by the United Nations in 1992 – on December 3rd, we look back on the initiatives implemented by the Group to improve the customer experience of visitors with disabilities.
This year, people with disabilities were among the most affected by the consequences of the crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Faced with this situation, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield wanted to reaffirm its commitment to inclusion, and more particularly to the inclusion of people with disabilities. This commitment encompasses many actions: forging partnerships with local associations, carrying out accessibility audits of the shopping centres, better integrating people with disabilities into the “URW for Jobs” initiatives. These are all solutions that make it possible to improve infrastructures and services so that they are adapted to visitors with disabilities.
In 2019, at the European level, 10 assets in six countries participated in Purple Tuesday, an initiative initially launched by the Purple association in the United Kingdom to encourage companies to offer services adapted to people with disabilities.
In 2020, the Group created a training module – developed with the French NGO, ADAPEI – provided to employees working in direct contact with visitors to help them understand the different types of disabilities (visual, hearing, mental, reduced mobility) and adopt appropriate behaviours. This module, integrated into the “4-star” program for all European centres, includes a mix of theory and practice led by a partner association.
Besides, in the United States, the centres are also implementing various initiatives in the same direction: an e-learning training module dedicated to inclusion as well as awareness-raising workshops are offered to employees.
Many locally-tailored actions
In all the regions where the Group operates, projects have been implemented in line with the Better Places 2030 strategy to give concrete expression to this commitment to social inclusion.
Westfield Vélizy 2 has been working with local NGOs to improve the centre’s accessibility and the services offered. On December 3rd, these partnerships led to the inauguration of a social inclusion committee, the installation of electric scooters for people with reduced mobility, the launch of an “accessibility” web page on the centre’s website, and a partnership with a local social health-care institution to advance the employability of disabled people. The centre will also soon be testing a new initiative: a paramedical staff will be present to welcome and accompany customers with disabilities in the centre based on previous appointment.
The Westfield London centre is working hand in hand with a dedicated group – Access Group – made up of NGOs and committed citizens, to make progress on this issue. This year, training modules were launched, including a module on mental health. In addition, the teams are preparing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower campaign, which aims to discreetly indicate to employees that customers wearing a sunflower badge need additional support. The centre’s service providers as well as the employees of the brands are gradually being trained to this message in order to make the customer journey more simple and pleasant for customers with disabilities.
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is constantly seeking ways to improve the quality of the experience for its visitors and to contribute to the well-being of local communities through innovative solutions. This is why promoting the accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in the destinations is a key challenge for the Group, whose collective strength makes it possible to imagine new ways of raising awareness and taking action to create welcoming spaces adapted to all.