3 November 2020
6.29 AM: I am literally standing outside Café Nero waiting for it to open in one minute. It is cold but I feel relieved. I have just walked across from BBC Broadcasting House where I discussed disability inclusion on Wake Up to Money on Radio Five Live, and I don’t think I fluffed my lines. I feel a little fraudulent as I use most of the core statistics I have used the previous year, but I don’t think the presenter had come across them before. She agrees the Purple Pound, worth a staggering £249 billion is a huge opportunity for businesses, in a market which incorporates 20% of the population. She wonders why 90% of businesses have no plan at all to access this market. I nod to her question which is not particularly good for radio!
I was able to highlight the ONS data from April this year which showed a disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on disabled people and access to goods and services as customers. I draw my own conclusions about the poor accessibility of websites in those lockdown days. I had started to talk about the emerging success of Purple’s digital offer when she said we had run out of time, thanked me, and in the blink of an eye today’s weather was being announced. A media lesson learned: make the evidence point short and tell the audience you have the solution.
6.38 AM: Sat in Café Nero with a strong coffee and a Danish pastry. I have a look at Twitter but not a lot to report as most people are not yet up. And then I think back two years to one of the ‘Purple Tuesday moments’. A couple from Lincoln had been listening to me on the same Wake Up to Money show and decided this was the day they were going to revisit the town’s shopping centre after nearly a 20-year absence. They later explained their last experience was so poor it had put them off for life, but Purple Tuesday had convinced them to try again. The shopping centre welcome was superb, they were introduced to shop mobility scooters and left saying they would be back every Saturday.
But that was two years ago. Back to the task in hand today, the 2020 Purple Tuesday celebratory day. Not quite as planned since all those months ago in January when Purple Tuesday was going global, had planned for four simultaneous workshops, which were going to take place in various locations across the UK as well as having sector sponsors present who were going to do most of the talking rather than me. The global pandemic re-wrote these early set plans and instead, it is mainly a social media event, with the exception of a social distanced Piccadilly Lights display and a roundtable later this afternoon, putting the D in ESG. More on that later.
Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, the mothballing of the economy for over three months and the subsequent levels of unemployment and continuing social distance restrictions, there is a strong message here. Purple Tuesday is reconnecting businesses to their disabled customers. New models of working are starting to attract new disabled customers and evidence is starting to show that disability has driven best in class inclusive recovery plans.
7.49 AM: Have taken the short taxi journey from the coffee shop to Piccadilly Circus ready for the Piccadilly Lights to display Purple Tuesday for 30 minutes from 8 AM. There are stickers all over the pavement indicating two metres, a stark reminder of the huge change in our lives. There are visibly less people around at this time from the previous two years, and the 24 hours non-stop news tells us that remote working is becoming the norm for most people for at least two days a week. The Purple Tuesday coterie is also smaller, but we are streaming the event live, so there is no need to get up and venture out into the cold when you can see it all from under the duvet at home.
The cameraman doubles as the interviewer and one of the team hold the boom. Due to it being live there is no room for retakes, and I am reminded to be short and in time for 8 AM. I welcome viewers and describe the thinking behind what they are just about to see. A set of graphics, that links Purple Tuesday to a UK inclusive economic recovery plan. More interesting than it sounds in written form. It sets out the three disability standards Purple Tuesday suggest are key to an inclusive plan: accessibility of the built environment – making the new world work for disabled customers and employees; accessibility of websites – the 10 things to do first; and disability awareness as part of new customer service training.
If Purple Tuesday is to be a success, I will need to explain these three standards ad nauseum throughout the day but with the passion and conviction of saying it like the first time.
8 AM: To the second, Piccadilly Lights becomes awash with Purple Tuesday. It looks magnificent. I think the different hue of purple has worked. It comes across as new and fresh. Passers by look up and I hope they make a mental note to google Purple Tuesday when they get to their office or on the way home.
No time to bask in any glory as it is back into a taxi to the BBC for a live TV interview.
The Purple Tardis is part crystal ball gazing, part successful implementation of plans and partly informed by past experience.
Follow Part Two of the Purple Tardis next Tuesday (12 May).
5 May 2020