Mike Adams standing next to the schedule board at the Arab Health Conference.

Going Global

Blog by Mike Adams

Disability is a global opportunity. 15% of the world’s population has a disability which equates to 1.3 billion people. In the UK we talk about the Purple Pound – the consumer spending power of disabled people and their families – being worth £249 billion a year to the economy. On a world stage disabled people, on their own, have £1 trillion in annual disposable income. Globally, disabled people account for the largest ‘minority’ segment of the consumer population yet few businesses target this market.

This narrative of opportunity mirrors the one Purple has been using across the UK over the past 18 months within business. Even the gap in employment rates between disabled and non-disabled people (about 30% points) is remarkably similar to the picture in the UK.

So, what are the current global challenges and, perhaps more importantly, do the solutions put forward by Purple have a level of applicability across the world?

Last week I was part of the Arab Health conference in Dubai. Involving delegates from over 60 countries, Purple ran a Disability Confident masterclass with CareTech and the Manzil Centre, a Dubai based charity.

Having never travelled to the Middle East before I was intrigued about how easy and comfortable I would feel as a disabled person. I am glad I wasn’t worried because I certainly didn’t need to.

With many airlines you have to become ‘special’ regardless of the support needed. With Emirates they asked what support I needed. I told them, they said it wasn’t a problem, and didn’t try to impose unnecessary support on me. I used my manual wheelchair up to the plane steps and it was there waiting for me when we arrived.

Walking through the airport in Dubai, and across the city, the one noticeable issue was a lack of unisex accessible toilet facilities. In both the Men’s (and I understand the Women’s) the accessible space was excellent. However, thinking about the recent Changing Places campaign in the UK, it could be a real issue for some disabled people and an example of where culture and inclusion can collide.

The hotel had excellent accessible facilities including a lower door handle to the room which enabled me to get in and out independently. Even the spy hole in the door was a lot lower!

I would disassemble some of the ramps within the City as many were rather steep or narrow – I will fondly remember them when watching ski jumping on TV during the Winter Olympics later this month! Some of the kerbs in town were also very high but generally the city was in pretty good shape for wanting to be known as the world’s barrier-free, inclusive and disability-friendly city by 2020.

What struck me most about the city was the level of customer service. Everything was excellent. For me, although there were very few people I saw with a visible disability I never felt out of place or made to feel awkward. I felt welcomed and encouraged into shops, restaurants, cafes – anywhere I wanted to go.

As I mentioned above, Dubai is aiming to be the friendliest city in the world by 2020, and they are making great strides to promote disability as much more than access. The masterclass was attended by a good number of Dubai companies who were genuinely looking to see how they could create opportunities for disabled people in their workforce. The UK Disability Confident Accreditation Scheme provides a good framework to support the right steps being taken. I am delighted the Manzil Centre has become the first international organisation to achieve the Disability Confident accreditation, and I look forward to supporting more businesses to follow in their footsteps.

As an organisation it is important Purple is able to share our knowledge and experience of disability to the widest possible audience. It is equally important Purple learn from the experiences from others right across the world to inform what we do.

Disability is a global challenge and I am delighted Purple is playing a part in making the world inclusive. Wherever your organisation is based, get in touch (Click here) to find out how Purple can support you to change the conversation on disability where you are, and reap the rewards of accessing the widest employee and consumer base possible.

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