Last week I was introduced to the concept of Purple Tuesday, 13th November, an initiative which has been launched to bring to our attention the difficulties faced by people with disabilities when they shop, an activity we all take for granted. Nearly one in five people in this country suffer from a disability or an impairment.
Listening to the problems of those most affected, the tendency for them is to avoid the high street rather than face physical and practical difficulties. It is, therefore, reassuring to see that the large retailers have acknowledged the necessity to make vital changes. This much needed and long ignored action was introduced by Mike Adams, the chief executive of Purple, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns for businesses to be more inclusive and to do more to allow people to spend the so-called “purple pound”.
It is estimated that in the UK people with disabilities and families spend £249 billion per annum on retail and leisure activities. Not an insignificant sum, yet the attention given to their needs has until recently been distinctly lacking. Focus is now shifting to acknowledge the importance of how best to service their requirements and to make shopping more accessible, manageable and overall a better experience. For retailers this is a market that cannot and should not be ignored.
At its heart, Purple Tuesday is more than a shopping event. It has set out to raise awareness of the 75% of disabled people and their families who have left a shop or a website due to poor access and or poor customer service.
For an able bodied person, do they ever consider how difficult access to a shopping centre may be for people in a wheelchair if the parking facilities are inadequate? whether the height of shelving in shops allows ease of access to all products ? Simple examples which have long been over looked
Online shopping, which we all see as a convenient way to shop, can also be fraught with problems and difficulties whereby examples of customers who are visually impaired are suffering with the constant changes and updating of websites often making it difficult to navigate around an online shop.
Every day should be a Purple Tuesday and it is fantastic that the drive to help the disadvantages has been brought into the arena. We need to learn to support the shopping experience for the disabled and their families and whatever initiatives are introduced these need to be sustainable all year round
Of course all these changes cannot be made over night as retailers have their own challenges to address in managing these requirements – change takes time but a commitment from us all in recognising the need and the opportunity to make products and services accessible to everyone is a big step in the right direction.