U.K. Stores Host First 'Purple Tuesday' Disability-Friendly Shopping Initiative


Over 700 companies participated in the U.K.’s first “Purple Tuesday,” a campaign to make retailers more accessible to people with disabilities, according to The Guardian, though stores are supposed to be accessible on any day.

Big box retailers such as Asda, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s participated in the national day, which included dressing mannequins and stores in purple. To ensure accessibility all year long, companies that want to participate in Purple Tuesday must make at least one long-term commitment to better the experience of shopping for customers with disabilities.

According to The Guardian, the initiative also calls for “quiet hours” for people on the autism spectrum and better disabled parking.

Purple Tuesday is an initiative started by Purple, a not-for-profit in the U.K. that aims to make businesses more inclusive of people with disabilities, especially by pushing for companies to hire disabled employees.

Purple encourages retailers to assess accessibility of both their stores and websites. The nonprofit also pushes for staff training and an appointed company employee to raise awareness of disability issues with higher-ups like a board of directors.

In the U.S., few stores have implemented disability- or autism-friendly initiatives like quiet hours. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is supposed to ensure accessibility to businesses such as retailers, but the ADA is violated repeatedly across the country. The Mighty’s disability editor, Karin Willison, called out many of the ways companies and services are not ADA compliant:

Thousands of companies and municipalities around the United States are currently getting away with flagrant ADA violations. They are operating businesses which are not wheelchair accessible because of just one or two steps. They are refusing to provide caption systems or interpreters for deaf people. They are running taxi and rideshare services with no accessible vehicles and with drivers who will cancel rides and leave behind blind customers or people who have a service dog. In some cases, they are major cities with massive budgets that continue to have inaccessible subways and poorly functioning paratransit systems.

Retailers have a lot to gain by becoming more accessible and inclusive. Purple states on its site that more than 12 million disabled people in the U.K. have a total spending power of £249 billion. Considering one in four Americans lives with a disability, they hold $490 billion in buying power in the U.S., according to the American Institutes for Research.

A few large brands like Target and Tommy Hilfiger have included models with disabilities and incorporated adaptive fashion into their clothing lines. Other brands, like Aerie, haven’t released adaptive clothing but have included models with disabilities.

Accessibility and the lack thereof is a common issue disability advocates fight for, and Purple Tuesday is raising awareness while also requiring businesses to make long-term efforts to become accessible and disability-friendly on more than one day a year.

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