Purple calls on businesses to improve on and offline accessibility

Today's 'Purple Tuesday' calls on businesses to improve accessibility for disabled customers

The ability to spend equitably online is a key inclusion issue for disabled people and a missed financial opportunity for businesses.

Firms lost a staggering £412 million during COVID-19, due to their website not being accessible for disabled customers, and more is being demanded of them in support of ‘Purple Tuesday’.

The Purple Tuesday campaign asks businesses to review their services for the disabled community to take advantage of the £274 billion Purple Pound – the combined spending power of disabled people and their families.

So far, more than 5,000 organisations have used Purple Tuesday 2021 as an opportunity to make practical commitments to improve the disabled customer experience.

The campaign’s organisers Purple, an organisation that wants to improve the disabled community’s customer experience, believes that increased accessibility benefits both disabled consumers and the economic health of the businesses they’re interacting with.

Accessibility issues for disabled people online

During the pandemic’s peak, when online sales boomed and many disabled people were asked to shield, Purple’s research found that one in three disabled people had difficulties using websites. This included 15% who had problems reading websites and 18% who gave up using a site.

The financial fallout for businesses due to the lack of website accessibility for disabled consumers is significant. Fifty-four per cent of people with disabilities who had difficulties with accessibility said they did not spend the money they had planned to.

E-commerce giant eBay is an example of how to improve the experiences of disabled buyers online. The online retailer has introduced keyboard-only access for those who don’t use a mouse and alternative text for icons and images which provide a textual description for people with sight loss. eBay also clearly labels forms to ensure they’re easily understood by people with cognitive disabilities and those using assistive technology.

Other ongoing efforts include adequate colour contrast across the site and apps for people with colour deficiencies or low vision. It also advises their 300,000 small business sellers to avoid small font sizes, use plain but descriptive language, avoid light colours in text, and keep animations simple.

Physical accessibility problems

Offline, Purple’s research found that 40% of disabled people had difficulties interacting with organisations in person. Almost one in five disabled consumers (19%) had problems with communication, and the same proportion had problems with physical accessibility. Another 39% said that while they agreed with measures such as masks and social distancing, it made life more difficult.

Purple also found that the NHS is frequently mentioned as one of the best organisations for accessibility of services, while the supermarket sector comes top. However, 54% of disabled people still feel organisations could improve their experience, including physical access and support. They cited lack of wheelchair ramps, narrow aisles, and staff unavailable to help reach high shelves as common problems.

Mike Adams OBE, Founder, and Creator of Purple Tuesday said: “Like everyone else, businesses had to adapt during the pandemic. There were countless examples of companies completely overhauling their offer almost overnight to stay successful. We, therefore, know it can be done, and now there are no excuses not to make changes to meet the needs of disabled people. Often the adjustments required are small and the financial rewards great, particularly as the benefits can usually be felt by all customers.

“Purple Tuesday this year, coming as it does in the wake of a pandemic and at a pivotal moment in the Climate Emergency, is about instilling a similar sense of urgency and making it unacceptable for those serious about economic recovery to ignore disabled people in 2021.”

Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith said: “Disabled people have spending power. One in five people in this country are disabled, and that’s a lot of customers. It is vital that the vast spending power and needs of disabled customers are not overlooked. This should be a mainstream concern of businesses as we recover from the pandemic.

“Purple Tuesday is a powerful reminder of why inclusivity is so important for society and the economy, and through our National Disability Strategy, we’re committed to helping businesses to be accessible for all.

“I implore all firms, big and small, to unlock the value of the Purple Pound and reap the benefits it brings.”

To find out more about Purple Tuesday, click here.

In this article, you learned that:

  • Businesses lost £412 million from disabled customers during the pandemic due to website accesibility issues.
  • The ‘Purple Pound’, which is the combined spending power of disabled people and their families, is worth around £274 billion for businesses.
  • Offline, disabled consumers are likely to report a lack of physical accesibility and support when navigating retail spaces, such as supermarkets.
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