It has since grown to 85 employees.
The Oxnard center employs 30.
“The demand [for such services] is
there,” says Pedro Correa, vice president of multicultural marketing and
sales at Verizon.
Out of Verizon’s 55 million customers, less than 1 percent use
these centers. But that number is
rising. “We’ve seen 5 percent
growth over the last couple of
years” in the number of customers
with disabilities, coupled with
increased demand for data products, such as high-speed access,
To identify existing Verizon
customers with disabilities and to
attract new ones, the company
markets through direct mail and
bill stuffers and is active in events
supporting disability organizations,
such as the American Foundation
for the Blind.
But serving this market isn’t
just about profits, says Correa. It’s
also about improving the community’s quality of life by helping
them communicate and tap into
resources they previously couldn’t.
Banking on Accessibility
Just as HP and Verizon emphasize
accessibility as the key to capturing
a share of the people-with-disabili-ties market segment, Bank of
America is taking a similar route.
“We recognize the professional and
financial power of the disabled-consumer population, and we have
strived to become a leader in providing them with options to access
financial services,” says Joseph
Goode, corporate spokesperson for
Bank of America, No. 25 on The
2006 DiversityInc Top 50
Companies for Diversity® list.
Those options include the
nation’s largest talking-ATM network, with more than 10,600
voice-guided ATMs; bank state-
ments in large print, Braille or
online; raised-line large-print
checks; TTY phone numbers for
deaf customers; a reader service
through which customers can have
statements and account information read to them by phone or at a
branch location; and the Bank of
America Web site, which it regularly tests for ease of accessibility,
all of which are part of its
Accessible Banking program.
Bank of America also has a special Access Loan program for people with disabilities, designed to
enable them to purchase or adjust
homes and cars with adaptive
equipment, assistive technologies,
and/or durable medical equipment.
Noting that an estimated
seven out of 10 Americans have a
disability or have a family member
with a disability, MetLife sees people with disabilities as “an important population,” says Joyce
Gordon, vice president of the
financial-solutions group at
MetLife. To ensure that this population receives all the information
it needs about financial and estate
planning, MetLife created
MetDESK—MetLife’s Division of
Estate Planning for Special Kids.
Its goal is to assist families in set-
ting up special-needs plans to provide for their children’s future.
To better serve this market segment, MetLife relies routinely
on a network of expert partners,
such as attorneys who specialize
in special-needs families, to
whom associates can turn for
advice and guidance regarding
estate and special-needs plans.
Other partners include nonprofit
organizations, such as The ARC,
United Cerebral Palsy, Autism
Society of America, and the
National Down Syndrome
Society, from which MetLife can
learn more about the particular
challenges its customers and target audience face.
Despite the complexities
involved in serving this market,
companies that are actively marketing to people with disabilities
are seeing results. Says Takemura,
“It’s difficult to quantify the
financial impact of any one customer segment, but when you
consider the sheer size of the market—the millions of people with
disabilities—and the discretionary
income they have available, it
translates to millions of dollars
annually in revenue for companies like HP.” DI
Quick Tips to Access the Market
● Work with disability organizations and nonprofits to research the
population. Understand the unique challenges each sub-segment may face.
● Listen to your customers. Bank of America conducts monthly “voice of the
customer” research to learn how its customers want to bank with them and
what the company can do to make it easier for customers with disabilities.
● Listen to your employees. Verizon established an employee-resource
group consisting of employees who have disabilities, who advise the company on how to best meet the market’s needs.
● Train your employees. Develop comprehensive training materials and provide training for every job function in the company so they know how to interact with people with disabilities.