Published:

Celia Hensman is the Founding Director of Ability2Win.

The ‘Purple Pound’ refers to the spending power of disabled households, and it remains the largest untapped market in the UK. Accessibility barriers from domestic and international businesses are preventing a £249 billion annual economic injection, a figure which is rising at an alarming rate of 14 per cent a year.

The statistics relating to disabled people make for an agonisingly uncomfortable read.

80 per cent of disabled people in the world are of working age. However, only 20 per cent of disabled women and 53 per cent of disabled men are employed. These untapped resources of 80 per cent and 47 per cent cost developed nations an estimated seven per cent of their GDP. Purple discovered that an alarming 45 per cent of UK businesses are ‘nervous’ about employing a disabled individual.

One cannot help but suffer gut-wrenching anger that, despite living in the UNHDI’s 14th most developed country in the world, there still exists prevalent private sector discrimination against those with disabilities.

One must therefore ask: why, despite legal obligation for ‘reasonable adjustments’ and the Equality Act’s attempt at discrimination prevention, does a perturbing shortfall in employed disabled people still exist?

Archaic stereotypes, lack of education, perception? This metaphorical cup of discrimination against disabled people has undoubtedly spilled over. However, the Government has come in strong, throwing down the gauntlet.

It is time for change, it is time for inclusion: it is time for increased accessibility, practical and decisive action. The 2021 National Disability Strategy demonstrates observance, encouragement for individual and business prosperity, and commitment to inclusivity, making “sure the United Kingdom is a place in which disabled people can truly share opportunities and reach their potential to fully participate in our modern, forward-looking society” – levelling up.

Levelling up accessibility is trifold in its benefits; morally, socially, and economically. A fractional five per cent increase in disabled employment would consequence in a GDP boost of £23 billion by 2030.

Scope’s ECC Inquiry has also unearthed staggeringly alarming statistics. 75 per cent of disabled people have walked away from a shop due to poor customer assistance, inaccessibility, or poor product selection, and 74 per cent of disabled adults feel they had lost out on a job opportunity because of their impairment.

The potential of the Purple Pound draws a parallel to a casino game of Craps, played with a loaded dice – impossible to lose. For both businesses and disabled consumers, there exists only winners. Choice, accessibility, competitive prices, and opportunities for disabled people are a simple trade for increased profits, greater market share, additional consumers, a larger pool of workforce, and increased business expansion opportunities.

The online spending power of disabled consumers is measures as worth over £16 billion. As the conversation around diversity and inclusion amplifies, the need for change and recognition of disability requirements has never been more crucial. The Government’s call for diversity, allied with disabled consumer demand, provides the scissors of bereavement and boycott to businesses that are failing to adequately supply the one in five people who have a disability or long-term health condition.

As a nation facing post-coronavirus economic repercussions, coupled with the Conservative energy for disability inclusivity advancement, as demonstrated by Ability2Win, one cannot logically argue against the need for the utilisation of disabled consumers tender.

For too long, oligopoly enterprises have unknowingly adopted a stance of disregarding innate accessibility barriers to consumers and employees, clinging to an outdated and un-diverse system of catering predominately towards the able-bodied community, rather than actively taking motion to seek change for their potential disabled consumers.

With over 13.9 million disabled consumers within the UK and billions internationally, does there exist a derogation from the moral and social obligations expected in a functioning, free, consumer-driven society? The disabled community has long sought the answer to the reason for lack of accommodation, yet we remain in purgatory, with the solutions, so simple to implement, failing to rise to the surface of business priority.

The wound of The Purple Pound in the side of our nation has been left ruptured and bleeding for too long, our disabled consumers are pining for change. With £2 billion lost by the UK economy every month as a direct result of businesses ignoring the needs of disabled people, one must question their enigmatic logic.

Mike Adams, Purple’s CEO, states that “businesses are losing about £420 million per week in sales to disabled people”. Disabled consumers are participating in a one-man race, with a need for increased opportunity, choice, and accessibility, currently, less than 10 per cent of businesses have a ‘targeted plan to access the disabled market’.

In a time of uncertainty, with the sour taste of Coronavirus lingering on the lips of Britain, it seems economically unfathomable how the continued discrimination towards disabled consumers prevails. With tools at their disposal from Department of Work and Pensions, the Disability Strategy, and a  business prosperity-centric Government, companies must acknowledge the potential of the Purple Pound and pull themselves towards the starting line of increased profit margins.

According to The Extra Costs Commission, two-thirds of disabled people feel that products are not developed with a level of physical or mental ability in mind. The need for private sector accessibility has seismically shifted. No longer must one focus solely on the logical economical benefits of the Purple Pound, one must also consider the duty to fundamental rights?

Abled and disabled people must unite as a single common force, rallying together demanding an end to the discrimination against disabled persons occurring behind the curtain. As a united force, comprised of consumers, Government and businesses, we must lift the veil and enact sustained change, tapping into a lucrative and socio-economically beneficial market – harnessing the potential of the Purple Pound.