Take a 10-minute break. Have a cup of coffee. And read about how you can make disability an opportunity for your business rather than yet another challenge to face, writes Mike Adams, CEO of national organisation Purple.
The last six months have been about business survival as the number of customers, for most,
have fallen off a cliff. As an SME, Purple has felt that experience as businesses suspended spend on all non-essential expenditure.
It has been frustrating in so many ways. At the start of the year we were all (UK business plc and Purple) making such good progress with the wider Disability agenda. Businesses that
understood the value of providing a good customer experience were starting to access the £274
billion Purple Pound – the consumer spending power of disabled people and their families.
In the tourism industry, in particular, if you don’t make things accessible this impacts the whole
family who are very unlikely to come.
Practical adaptions to the accommodation, better
signage, improved accessibility of the website and the introduction of the Sunflower Lanyard
Scheme were starting to become common as achievable, low cost adjustments, which were
making a bottom-line difference. And staff were starting to build their own disability confidence
– as individuals’, teams and as a collective organisation.
And then Covid-19 happened.
Today, the focus for every business, including Purple, is on recovery. The need to be proactive
to survive, balanced with getting heads around what is permissible and being creative in the
‘how’ and for how many. It is easy to put disability in the ‘too difficult’ and ‘will have to wait box’.
But disability can be a central part of your recovery plan – your inclusive recovery plan. Purple
recently posted a short paper on the three core elements which can make your recovery plan
inclusive. In summary they are:
Making your built environment accessible in a socially distancing world. It can be as simple
as ensuring accessible parking spaces are not removed/reduced to make ways for longer
queues; accessible toilet facilities are not opened up for all; any Plexiglass or Perspex
screens used have markings to support those with visual impairments; and that a short
accessibility guide is provided (online) which identifies the current restrictions and what disability access services are available.
Disabled people do understand but want and need
to know so informed decisions can be made.
Making low cost changes to improve the accessibility of digital, online information, via all
devices including smart phones. Websites become the gateway to your organisation and if
the gate is shut people will not come. There are very quick wins to be made.
Ensuring disability awareness becomes an integral part of training your staff with new ways
of working. And not a bolt on addition – because it simply won’t happen. This can be as
easy as case studies of customers with different disabilities (including hidden/invisible
impairments) and the changes which make a real difference.
It is back to the point about
disabled people feeling welcomed and being a customer rather than a burden and risk
I was always told that in every crisis you have to come through the other side with something
really positive and different. Your approach to accessibility and disabled customers can be just
Disability makes commercial sense. It is socially the right thing to do. And can be achieved at a
much lower cost than people think. It opens up your business to the £274 billion disabled
market, is great as a marketing differentiator and will really resonate with your staff as an
employer of choice.
50% of the UK population have a family member or someone in their close network with a disability, so it is personal.Mike Adams, Purple CEO.
50% of the UK population have a family member or someone in their close network with a disability, so it is personal.
Purple has created and co-ordinate Purple Tuesday (www.purpletuesday.org.uk), an initiative
supporting businesses to improve the customer experience for disabled people through practical
changes to their physical, online and staff approaches to accessibility. Last year 2,500
organisations took part, making over 5,000 changes to practice.
We reached over 13 million
people and trended at #3 worldwide on Twitter. And the impact is now starting to be felt for both
disabled customers and businesses. This year the celebratory event takes place on 3
Perfection is not necessary. But intent and a commitment to do something to make a change
has become the new norm.
I hope the 10-minute break was as good as the coffee. Make it count and make a positive
change for your disabled customers and your business.