Today marks the launch of a brand new initiative aimed at making shopping more accessible: Purple Tuesday, created to draw attention to the challenges faced by disabled shoppers and the adjustments that could improve their experience. The initiative, taken up by retailers including Asda, Sainsburys, and Marks & Spencer, was created by Mike Adams, chief executive of nonprofit Purple, as the Guardian reports. Purple focuses on creating conversations between disabled people and businesses, in order to improve access for disabled people and enable them to spend the "purple pound." So let's get a bit more specific: what is Purple Tuesday, and what does its founder hope it will achieve?
According to Purple, one in five people in the UK are disabled, while they have a collective spending power of £249 billion. However, disabled people continue to face barriers in shops, restaurants, and workplaces, restricting their ability both to find a job and spend on the leisure or retail industries.
Purple Tuesday, therefore, asks its participants to draw attention to the needs of disabled customers, and make "at least one long-term commitment" to making their business more inclusive. Further participants include Argos, Barclays, Cineworld, and shopping centre group Intu.
Purple's Mike Adams told the Guardian that he hopes the initiative will "demonstrate to retailers that there are things that can be done at no cost" and "start some momentum for businesses to see disabled people as, first and foremost, customers." Throughout the day, participants will highlight the event by decorating their store in purple, speaking to customers about the initiative, and promoting Purple Tuesday on social media.
Suggested improvements for businesses to make include providing extra staff training and undertaking an accessibility audit. Participants are also encouraged to join the government's Disability Confident scheme, launched in order to help employers recruit disabled people and support them in their roles.
Businesses looking to become more inclusive could undertake further initiatives such as improving the accessibility of their websites and apps, employing disabled mystery shoppers, and using disabled models in marketing campaigns, Purple says. Shops and restaurants could also install "not all disabilities are visible" signs on accessible toilets or changing rooms, establish regular "quiet hours," and improve wayfinding within the business.
According to the Guardian, insufficient access is currently costing shops £11.4 billion in sales. The newspaper also notes that only 15% of shops currently provide hearing loops for those with hearing loss, while 20% of retailers on the high street don't provide a ramp for wheelchair users.
Dr Frances Ryan suggested shops could incorporate braille signs, and offer large print clothing tags and signs for visually impaired customers. Added seating could help those with chronic illnesses like ME, while quiet zones and softer lighting could make shops more accessible to autistic people, people with epilepsy, or people who have migraines.
For wheelchair users, ramps, accessible changing rooms, lifts, and lowered pay points should be provided, while stores should also be more forthcoming in offering assistance, Dr Ryan suggests. This morning, Piccadilly Square turned purple in recognition of Purple Tuesday; let's hope that businesses continue to commit once the event is over.