3 November 2020
8.47 AM: Sitting in the corridor on the second floor at the BBC with my finger pressed against an earpiece whilst gazing into an unstaffed television camera. The check-in process at reception was very different to previous years, which involved a temperature check and queuing at the door. Given the live nature of TV, these delays add an additional layer of pressure. At the lifts to access the second floor, I find myself negotiating with the security woman about the need to be accompanied. I absolutely get the importance of adhering to social distancing but worried reasonable adjustments, and common sense, are being ignored.
3-2-1 – We are live: My first question is about “vulnerable customers”. It irks as I feel we have gone back 10 years with the language used. So frustrating but I try not to let the eyebrow lift and explain disabled customers can be made vulnerable by providers – and Purple Tuesday is working to ensure this doesn’t happen. It leads nicely into my key message of supporting organisations to develop and deliver inclusive economic and social plans. I use a couple of powerful examples. The answer to social distancing with regard to toilets is not simply to allow everyone to use accessible facilities as evidence is showing disabled people are being put off visiting towns as they are fearful of not being able to use the loo. And, of course, inaccessible websites which are bolting shut gateways to online information and shopping.
9.27 AM Bingo!: The live national lunchtime news interview has been confirmed. The interviewee will be the business editor. The traffic on social media is buzzing with videos, resources and personal stories being shared and liked. Too many to keep up with in real time. One infographic catches my eye. It shows the results of a survey from a large retailer and the raising awareness and importance of mental health cases by their staff. One of the hidden repercussions of Covid-19.
My colleagues, Charlene and Nikita, have been speaking to listeners on local radio stations all morning. Charlene went ‘back home’ so to speak, with a four-minute interview with BBC Radio Ulster before speaking to the North West and West Midlands.
Before leaving the BBC, I am interviewed for an online article focused on digital accessibility. I am impressed how quickly these things get penned and posted.
12.06 PM: Not long arrived for the lunchtime slot. Again, the reception protocols are stark but feels like normal now. We, as people, have readjusted our lives very quickly. Escorted to the green room which feels more akin to an isolation unit. One chair, one table and not a lot else, including no gratis tea or coffee. The nerves kick in as I realise this is a great opportunity to speak to an audience who can take actions to connect inclusive plans and disabled customers. I point out the rising share price of three or four companies who have done just that. I acknowledge this is not totally down to disabled people but an inclusive approach to diversity has been a contributing factor.
I managed to deliver my soundbite. Disability is about what you do 365 days a year. This drives customer loyalty, and longer-term loyalty of your staff.
2.18 PM: In a boardroom at the HQ of a large corporate near the Barbican. A year in planning for a roundtable on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) disclosures. Although it was starting to climb the corporate agenda, Covid-19 has literally catapulted it to near the top. In the capital markets if you want investment then you do ESG. Not just stating you have recycling bins or employ a disabled person. But cogent and ambitious plans and deliverables. The speed of its prominence has focused the minds on disability which have always seemed the bridesmaid. Today is about firmly putting the D in ESG. The participants include representatives from financial institutions, company secretaries and those senior managers at the sharp end of implementation. The metrics discussed include disabled representation in all key staff and management groups. I nod to the great work being undertaken by Purple Space. A focus on the recruitment of neurodiversity talent and a nod to our work with Quarsh which is rapidly growing traction, and targets arising from AI technology and the employment of disabled people in particular. Not all directly related to Purple Tuesday but definitely about disabled people.
There was a promise to write up, circulate and post the findings to meet the needs of a rapidly growing audience. And a commitment from the host to hold another meeting in the summer of 2021 to review tangible progress made at an individual organisation and sector level.
5.04 PM: Finally on my way home but not before one final pit stop in another coffee shop to swap notes and stories with colleagues. There had been visits to a number of events promoting Purple Tuesday including a school where the choir sang and signed in Makaton. Another roundtable but this focused specifically among the insurance industry and some lower key than originally planned awareness raising events in shopping centres.
One final radio interview pre-recorded from the taxi taking me home. I cover most of the same ground, but it is interesting (and pleasing) to note the line of questioning around hidden disabilities. Promising.
Too tired for any reflections which will have to wait for another day.
The Purple Tardis is part crystal ball gazing, part successful implementation of plans and partly informed by past experience.
Mike Adams OBE
12 May 2020