It is now a week since Purple Tuesday was launched with the help of Sky News. All the planning in the world doesn’t necessarily prepare you for what is to follow. Overall, the coverage has been brilliant, the key messages have been conveyed well and the response and interest has been hugely encouraging. And if you have been in touch, thank you and I assure you we will get back to you very soon.
So back to last week. I was given three hours’ notice the film crew were coming – apparently this is a long time in the news industry. So there was no time to get my long awaited haircut, or for much prep, before I was in front of the cameras in the middle of Chelmsford high street – and throughout the filming it rained which just added to my unrefined appearance!
For those that missed it, Purple Tuesday on 13th November 2018 will be the UK’s first accessible shopping day. It is a call to action to the wider retail industry (including shopping centres and landlords) to better understand the needs of their existing and future disabled customers and commit to making lasting changes to their shopping experience. Why? Well, first of all it’s the right thing to do. But it also presents an obvious commercial opportunity to win and retain more loyal customers.
At its heart, Purple Tuesday is much, much more than a shopping event. It’s really about raising awareness. 75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from a shop or left a website due to poor access and/or poor customer service. Common sense will tell you that is not right, or acceptable for disabled people, or for businesses who are simply passing up a share of the £249 billion Purple Pound – the consumer spending power of disabled people and their families – for not putting in place what are often straightforward changes to both the physical environment and approaches to customer service.
I have seen a number of people point out that “every day should be Purple Tuesday.” We couldn’t agree more. Purple Tuesday is our way of supporting the retail sector to improve the shopping experience for disabled people and their families. As a disabled shopper myself, I want to be reassured that I can get parked, I can easily get around the high street or shopping centre, I can go to the toilet in accessible facilities and when I walk into a shop I am made to feel like a valued customer who will leave having had a positive experience (and spent my money).
I want my first thought to be ‘I will go back’. I want to have these same feelings when I am shopping online. Online shopping opens up a huge gateway but so often that gate is unnecessarily shut for disabled people. Purple Tuesday is about generating greater awareness and for promoting ways to keep the gate permanently open. (These points have been well made by our friends at Scope – please do check out Chief Executive Mark Atkinson’s excellent HuffPost piece.)
At a shopping centre manager conference held earlier this year by Revo I announced our Purple Tuesday intentions and a participant rightly reminded me that whatever happened this must not turn into a ‘special one off’ day for disabled people. This has always been at front of mind for everyone involved in planning this initiative. Whatever we do on 13th November must lead to a sustainable change in the following 364 days and beyond. For that reason we have discounted ideas such as increased accessible parking spaces on the day or one-off discounts for disabled people. If retailers want to introduce a quiet hour they would need to commit to having it on a regular basis as part of ‘business as usual’. If retailers want to introduce mystery shopping using disabled people – with a range of impairments – that this needs to become part of the fabric of what they do year after year.
But we also recognise full change can’t and won’t necessarily happen overnight. Retailers, and business generally, have their own challenges whether it’s budgetary, spatially, technology – change takes time, but it’s about a recognition of the need and the opportunity, and most importantly a commitment to make products and services accessible to all.
Purple Tuesday is not about being prescriptive with those who sign up. Over the coming weeks we will be producing a range of resources which retailers can then use. We will be sharing the art of the possible and examples of what others are doing to raise awareness and improve accessibility. The Purple Tuesday team are producing a short customer service video we hope will be accessed by all staff in participating organisations raising awareness and practical actions for them to improve their customer service. The acid test: when I go into a participating shop the following week and the frontline member of staff comes up to me and says “Hello, can I help you?”
Purple Tuesday was the vision of Purple, and we, with a range of others, are co-ordinating its implementation. Purple was established to address inequality for disabled people by working with disabled people, supporting businesses to build their disability capability and bringing the two communities together to find the solutions of tomorrow.
Purple Tuesday is a high-profile test of delivering that vision. Purple Tuesday will work in partnership with disability organisations and disabled people to make it happen. It is about bringing to life the ‘nothing about us, without us’ principle, working in concert with all others who share the vision. We will shortly be introducing a ‘suggestion box’ to our Purple Tuesday website so we can harness the lived experience of disabled people and bring case studies to the organisations taking part in Purple Tuesday. Tell us what you think the solutions are and be a part of making the retail sector more accessible.
The launch of Purple Tuesday has interrupted my series of blogs on my holiday and experiences of being a disabled traveller. In my first one I explained the experience of mistaken identity when people up and down Vietnam thought I was an Australian evangelist and motivational speaker! At the end of last week, I was stopped by someone at the railway station who looked at me quizzically and said ‘you’re the Purple Tuesday bloke’ – not quite, but at least the word is getting out!
For more information about Purple Tuesday and how to register an interest, go to purpletuesday.org.uk
Oh, and if you’re on Twitter please give us a follow – @purpletuesdayuk