Mike Wray, BID Manager for One Chelmsford highlights why becoming a Purple Partner has focused their work to ensure Chelmsford City Centre is an accessible destination for disabled people and their families.
Creating an accessible and inclusive destination is a key objective for One Chelmsford, a Business Improvement District (BID) in Essex. It makes commercial sense and is what our community would expect. For our retailers and leisure businesses it means more visitors and more spend; for our office and commercial sector, it widens the pipeline to attract the required workforce needed; and for our residents it means improvements to their day to day customer experience. We are committed to making sure Chelmsford City Centre remains the county’s premier destination to work, visit and live.
Our journey with Purple started in 2018 when Purple launched Purple Tuesday, with a call to action supporting organisations to realise the value of the Purple Pound- (a staggering £249 billion to the UK economy each year) and to improve the disabled customer experience by influencing change in business practices.
We were delighted to get behind this important initiative as it translated our disability inclusion intent into a range of practical changes as the ground for our members, visitors and residents. To show our support we illuminated Shire Hall purple where BBC Look East interviewed Mike Adams OBE, CEO of Purple and creator of Purple Tuesday for a live broadcast in the city centre.
Following the success of Purple Tuesday and the fact that it has now gone global, One Chelmsford became the first BID in the world to join Purple as a partner and are proud to work alongside them.
Most importantly as part of our partnership we access expertise, consultancy and training from Purple’s highly specialised team who tailor the support to meet our needs. This has proved invaluable for us as a BID to understand what is needed in the area and to accelerate our accessibility and inclusion practices.
As a BID we felt as a key starting point for our disability journey was to better understand the barriers disabled people face when navigating the city centre. We worked with Purple to undertake a comprehensive accessibility audit of the city to identify any key physical, cognitive and sensory barriers in Chelmsford. The findings and recommendations have been immensely useful for us; they highlighted areas of good practices which can be easily replicated in other areas of the city; and provided feasible, real-life practical solutions to those barriers identified. We have shared Purple’s access audit findings with our members, local authority and highways agency to open discussions and make plans to improve the area.
Building Disability Confident Members
A core objective of One Chelmsford is to equip our members to better understand the value disability can bring to their businesses and to help build the disability confidence of their employees. Meeting the needs of disabled people as customers and employees may not be so very different from that of any other, but we know there still is apprehension in getting it wrong and offending. We have worked with Purple to conduct research of our members which has enabled us to recognise the gaps in disability knowledge and capabilities and have developed a training programme with Purple and local disability charities to address those areas.
Disabled Customer Feedback
The next phase of our work with Purple is to gather feedback from disabled visitors to the city. We will be launching a disabled mystery shopping initiative alongside a series of focus groups with locally based disability groups. This information will be collated in a report with a set of key recommendations for improvements. This important information will help us to underpin our accessibility strategy moving forward.
Working in partnership with Purple over the past two years has been invaluable to us as a BID. It has been an excellent investment with demonstrable changes made on the ground – both physical and in changing mindsets. We want to lead the way for other BID’s to become equally accessible.