This week I was recognised in the Shaw Trust Power 100 List of Britain’s most influential disabled people. It’s an important accolade both for me personally and for the work we are doing at Purple to demonstrate the opportunity of the £249 billion disability market (the Purple Pound).
On my way to the Power 100 event, the irony was not lost on me that all disabled people are influential. As disabled customers, we all face barriers when trying to buy goods or services – whether on the high street or online – and often have to use our powers of initiative, persuasion, persistence and more to get what we need.
As I reflected on this, my observations were quickly proven right by challenges I faced trying to reach the Shaw Trust 100 Power List event at the House of Lords. I needed all my influential skills just to make it to the venue.
The two-week climate demonstrations in London have caused major road disruption in Westminster. I’m sure that the climate change protesters are acting with the best of intentions – but their blockade around Westminster had serious repercussions for me.
The security operation in place meant I was told that I would need to walk (walking anything but short distances is not possible for me). I persuaded my taxi driver that I would talk to the police, which I did, to let us drive through the secured area to get near to Parliament. I then had to negotiate walking in between hundreds of demonstrators lining the roads and pavements, which saw me joined by a group of 20 protesters, all dressed in red outfits with white powdered faces, who followed me to the Black Rod’s Garden Entrance!
I also had to use all my influencing skills on the return leg, persuading the police to allow my booked transport back into the security zone to pick me up. I don’t often feel vulnerable, but being marooned in Westminster with no transport to get back to the station was a moment where I did feel stranded.
It was a fantastic event, with so many powerful and influential disabled people sharing their ideas and experiences. But on reflection, I was left disappointed at not being able to meet more disabled colleagues who were recognised in the Power List, many of whom were not able to attend due to the transport restrictions.
At Purple, travel and transport is a key part of our Purple Tuesday initiative to help businesses meet the needs of their disabled customers. In our view, as soon as businesses and organisations recognise the need to be more proactive in meeting the needs of disabled people – 1 in 5 of the population – the disabled customer’s experience will vastly improve. And the organisations that do this best will prosper.
I feel we will need all our influence – from the Shaw Trust’s Power 100 List to each and every disabled consumer – to help businesses and organisations realise this commercial reality.
So help us change the conversation on Purple Tuesday – encourage your local organisations to get involved in time for 12 November 2019, when we’ll celebrate the thousands of commitments businesses and organisations are making to improve the customer experience. Visit purpletuesday.org.uk to find out more.