The purple pound - the collective spending power of those with disabilities – is worth a hefty £249 billion to the UK economy. But campaigners say that it is not being fully realised by businesses and organisations across the country.
As well as improving a company’s financial outlook, there are clear moral and legal obligations of improving accessibility – which can be straightforward and, quite often, totally free too.
Cibes Lift UK has worked with a range of retail outlets across the country to install equipment to enable step free access to their premises.
Gary Sullivan, Head of Sales and Marketing for Cibes Lift UK, said: “With disabled people and their families’ spending power – known as the ‘purple pound’ - standing at around £250 billion last year, it is vital that businesses and organisations are ensuring their premises are accessible, for their own benefit as well as their disabled customers.
“Business owners must take into consideration the 2010 Equality Act, which declares disabled people cannot be discriminated against and ‘reasonable adjustments’ should be made to premises if necessary.
“But they should be going above and beyond to make sure their facilities are inclusive and providing support to customers wherever and however possible.”
As well as physical adaptations, such as installing equipment offered by Cibes Lift UK, there are lots of easy ways to improve accessibility for disabled customers.
Here are just a few ideas to assist disabled customers, as set out by the Purple Tuesday website, a site dedicated to the UK’s first accessible shopping day which recently saw hundreds of UK businesses back its message. 2019’s event is already in the works.
1. If you are talking to a wheelchair user, talk to them directly and make eye contact with them rather than the door, or the person they are with.
2. Let a blind person reach out for your arm to guide them around the store rather than you giving them your arm.
3. In a noisy shop, when you approach a customer ask them if they want to step to a quieter place to start the conversation. For a person with mental health conditions (and plenty others as well!) it may well be the difference between staying, or simply walking out.
4. Teach yourself hello and goodbye in sign language. As it makes such a difference to a deaf person, and you might and you want to learn even more useful phrases
5. When talking to people with autism and/ or Asperger’s stick to clear facts rather than providing information that then needs interpreting. For example – “we have this jumper in red, navy and black” rather than “we have this jumper in lots of colours.”
6. Installing a lift is another clear way to improve disabled access, sometimes a lift being the difference between a disabled person being able to access a retail outlet or not.
One business which has acted upon its "drive" to provide a fully accessible shopping experience is Robson Motorcycles, a well-known prestige motorcycle dealer and BMW franchise in York.
With a newly-built premises, the company needed to ensure that it gave disabled customers and staff access – so they called on Cibes UK to install a lift.
Manager and joint owner of Robson Motorcycles, Kevin Fairburn, said:
"Our lift has a dual-purpose for us. As well as helping disabled clients access our bikes and merchandise on our second level, it also helps us transport our goods including motorbikes up there too.”