This week saw the launch of Purple Tuesday, the UK’s first ever accessible shopping day, where hundreds of retailers were encouraged to focus on the needs of their disabled customers, with a view to improving shopping experiences going forwards. Organised by Purple, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes the spending power of the UK’s near 14 million disabled people, the initial aim was to get 50 companies to commit to improving the shopping experience for disabled customers. By Tuesday, they had 700 companies from around the country on board.
Mike Adams, the Founder of Purple, stated the aims of Purple Tuesday in a recent blog post:
“If retail is to improve the accessibility of the shopping experience for disabled people and their families then awareness needs to be raised and the right commitments undertaken. This should be done alongside disabled people. And this is exactly what we are doing.”
Shops were encouraged to make changes such as adjusting noise and lighting, adding more seats, and making sure that their premises were fully wheelchair accessible, as part of the commitment to provide assistance for all forms of disability. Hundreds of thousands of shop workers received training via a specially devised customer service video and organisers asked firms to conduct accessibility audits in stores and on their websites, and to appoint internal “disability champions” to raise issues at a board level in big firms.
Yet perhaps the most key message of Purple Tuesday was that this should be a continued commitment. As Mike Adams stated: “Purple Tuesday is not simply about one day. It is what follows over the next 364 days and beyond.” Nearly one in every five people in the UK has a disability or impairment, and over half of households have a connection to someone with a disability, so it goes without saying that businesses and organisations must be attuned to the needs of all their customers. Luckily Purple are on the case, by getting companies to commit to “quiet hours” in stores, add “not every disability is visible” signs and to run accessible facilities checks.
Even stores that have accessible entry can still pose a number of barriers to disabled shoppers, with crowded displays blocking pathways adding to the difficulty posed when navigating London’s busy shopping centres. Plus, a mystery shopping exercise in the leisure sector this summer found a quarter of businesses could not accommodate a wheelchair and a third were unable to assist with cognitive impairments like autism.
Events like Purple Tuesday play a massive role in raising awareness of the needs of disabled customers, both to businesses as fellow shoppers alike. The key now is to make sure that this message isn’t ignored until this time next year. We must all do our bit to ensure that inclusion is a daily activity, not a one-day event.