Accessibility to Retail Shops – Purple Tuesday


What is Purple Tuesday?

Purple Tuesday is a UK accessible shopping day to recognise and raise awareness of the needs of disabled consumers with the aim to promote inclusive shopping.

Purple Tuesday takes place Tuesday 13th November 2018 i.e. Today!

Purple Tuesday is Coordinated by the UK disability charity ‘Purple’ and is endorsed by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Purple Tuesday is also supported and endorsed by Purple Tuesday Launch Partners. Launch Partners include Argos, Barclays, Marks & Spencers and Sainsbury’s as well as a few more.

It is the job of these Launch Partners to promote accessible shopping. Every Launch Partner also has to make at least one long term commitment to improve the experience of their disabled customers.

Each commitment is up to the business however, they could include things such as improve store layouts, introduce regular ‘quiet hours’ for those with sensory issues and more inclusive marketing as well as many other things – although personally I do feel that businesses should actually speak to disabled customers rather than assuming what we need.

Why Should We Participate in Purple Tuesday?

Equality? Inclusivity? Human Decency?

Were you aware that nearly 1 in every 5 people within the UK have a disability or impairment? This also means that over half of households have a connection to someone with a disability. We are not some rare species that I feel some people think we are.

Disabled people deserve the same rights as any abled person. We should be able to access the same opportunities as any abled person. This also includes shopping.

Shops would be and to be honest are absolutely crazy for not considering the needs of their disabled customers as our business is worth more than you may think.

As a community disabled people have a collective spending power worth £249 billion to the UK economy.

Any business/organisation can sign up to participate in purple tuesday here, you may also want to consider signing up the Government’s Disability Confidence Scheme here.

Are Accessibility Issues that Important & Necessary? Is the Disabled Community just Being Difficult?


YES AND YES. Accessibility issues are important and necessary. Inaccessibility is essentially putting two fingers up to the Disability Community and saying ‘you don’t matter’. Inaccessibility leaves many disabled people feeling like a second class citizen. We don’t matter as much to the world as an abled person, we aren’t worth the effort and we don’t have as much to bring to the table – which by the way is completely untrue!

However, if you’re not willing to think about accessibility and make the necessary changes then we will take our collective spending power of £249 billion elsewhere that will. We will also continue to challenge you and your inaccessibility ensuring that WE ARE HEARD and that others are aware of your inaccessibility and inequality.

NO, we never intend to be difficult and we ARE NOT being difficult we are asking to be treated the same as anyone else who is abled. We are asking to be treated as the equals that we are and should have been treated as all along.

Are our Businesses/Organisations, Retailers, Restaurants and Cafes really that Inaccessible?

Unfortunately for us, yes. If you’d like to know a little more about my experiences as a wheelchair user when I got out then you may also want to read my blog post ‘Out & About in My Wheelchair’ which I wrote not long after receiving my own custom wheelchair here.

I was aiming for a shorter blog post so I will ‘quickly’ list the many, many, MANY ways that Businesses can be inaccessible to us.

  • Clothes Rails, Isles or Tables are placed too closely together, especially for wheelchairs to pass through. This has personally stopped me from entering a store before, being able to look around a whole store and I have also gotten my wheelchair scraped or trapped between MANY clothes rails.
  • Clothes or Products on the floor are a tripping hazard for anyone especially anyone with a visual impairment, anyone who uses crutches, a walking stick, a walking frame/rollator as well as wheelchair users.
  • Extra Display Stands which are especially worse around Christmas. Making it difficult to maneuver through a store especially in a wheelchair or with a walking frame/rollator. It can also be extremely difficult for visually impaired customers who are used to a store being laid out in a particular way too.   
  • Till Points/Customer Service Desks that are only at standard height make it extremely difficult to speak to employees, it can make it harder to hear someone, reach your items or pay for your items if you are in a wheelchair or have a condition that may have stunted your growth .
  • Hard to Reach Card Machines. Some Card Machines are in a fixed position so they cannot be passed to and/or lowered to a disabled customer. Some of the newer contactless card machines have loose connections so if a employee passes you the card machine it often slips out of place slightly and crashes the entire system.
  • No Accessible Changing Room in Clothing Stores.
  • Accessible Changing Rooms being used as Storage Rooms.
  • Lack of thought and understanding when Accessible Changing Rooms are being fitted. Some don’t have space for a wheelchair, some don’t provide a chair or a chair in the right place and some don’t provide handrails or handrails in the right places.
  • No Disabled Toilets.
  • Poorly Designed Disabled Toilets, some cannot fit a wheelchair in and are wrongly sized, some don’t have handrails or they are wrongly placed.
  • Some places have no Changing Places Toilets – these are disabled toilets that also have a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench, a tracking hoist system or mobile hoist if the first is not possible, adequate space in the changing area, a centrally placed toilet, a screen or curtain for privacy.
  • Accessible Toilets are blocked by tables in Restaurants/Cafes.
  • Some stores don’t have ramps only steps into them and most don’t have a temporary ramp they can bring out when Disabled customers visit.

These are only some of the accessibility issues disabled people face when going out, so yes accessibility is important and yes there are still huge issues around adequate accessibility.

But Aren’t Retailers Doing Better?

I am going to give you an answer that my partner tends to answer most questions with. Well, yes and no.

There has a been a BIG push within the retail industry recently for disabled models to be included in ad campaigns, especially for clothing, to continue to provide diversity, equality, to normalise a disabled body and for inclusivity.

So this is what many shops have done, shops including ASOS, Primark, River Island and Marks & Spencer.

As these retailers have used obviously disabled models in their ad campaigns and are promoting diversity and equality I would personally consider using their store/online store.

However, are these companies really doing enough? Are they using the fact that they have used disabled models an excuse to ignore other accessibility and equality issues that the disabled community are asking to be addressed?

M&S for example, this year have bought out clothes designed specifically for children with disabilities. They have designed a range that helps dressing children with disabilities easier whilst also using softer fabrics and thinking about clothing designs for those with conditions such as hip dysplasia and thinking about the placement of medical equipment such as feeding tubes.

Although this in theory sounds as though M&S are really thinking about their disabled customers and their needs, did you know that M&S are not currently looking at/willing to put in appropriate facilities such as Changing Places Toilets in their stores?

So, are retail stores really doing enough? Are we mistaking one well thought out campaign that is both very genuine but also great for business as great accessibility and great for the disabled community.

No, stores still are not doing enough, even if they are taking steps in the right direction the end of the fight for accessibility is still a long way off.

Is Purple Tuesday a Good Thing?

Yes, I think it is but a part of me also thinks, seriously?! It’s 2018! We shouldn’t need a day to highlight accessibility issues, to ask shops to consider the needs of those with disabilities.

Accessibility is a HUGE problem and perhaps one day we’ll be a lot closer to equality and accessibility, equally I feel there will always be something new to learn but that isn’t a bad thing!

I see Purple Tuesday as a stepping stone, it’s a place to start and maybe eventually accessibility will just happen, people will think twice, businesses will use common sense rather than needing disabled people to shout and share their stories and experiences via social media, blog posts and videos.

Joining Purple Tuesday should also help businesses to make a change but also to stick to them. I hope that as businesses begin to do this they will think about the many other ways they can improve accessibility both within their stores and online. They will make these changes and continue to improve and grow with them.

I would also like to add that Purple Tuesday is not just about Wheelchair Users, but anyone with a Disability/Chronic Illness or Impairment. I know all to well the difficulties of living with a “invisible illness” prior to the use of my wheelchair.

Accessibility is a good thing and everybody should be able to join in, in shopping and in life whether they are disabled or abled.

Let me know in the comments what your experiences are and how you believe businesses can improve accessibility in retail shops, cafes and restaurants.

I recently spoke to the BBC about my experiences when shopping and about some of things that businesses can do that would make a big difference. Click here if you would like to watch this short video.





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