By Simon Sansome
You know when things are bad in the UK high street when the government wants the disabled community to save Christmas.
Strictly is on the TV, the X Factor is going for Xmas number 1, everyone is arguing over the best new Christmas advert.
The crazy season has arrived you cannot ignore it, stores are struggling, and the disabled community has billions of pounds to spend in the high street, the only issue is no one can access the shops and so ‘Purple Tuesday’ has been launched. It has started and over 600 stores are taking part in this show of disability support around the UK.
It has been introduced so that people with disabilities find it easier to go shopping, however the opposite has happened, but no doubt, they will call it a massive success.
People in the disabled community have expressed they feel more isolated, felt abandoned and now they can only go out on Tuesdays to get the shopping done.
There has been talk on social media that people on benefits would have their benefits reduced if the DWP sees them out and about shopping, making a culture of disabled people paranoid about the British government and how they operate. One comment said: “This is a con as the dwp are using this to spy on you in a bid to take away your benefits disabled people don’t participate!!!”. This is just one comment among thousands found on line on the day of the launch of Purple Tuesday.
While some see the event as highlighting the issue of lack of access in the high street, some say that it gives shops an excuse not to help people with disabilities on other days and only on Tuesdays. One comment explained that Camden Town was not accessible yesterday, so will not be accessible today. Some people have made fun of the fact that it only happens on Tuesdays, saying: “My family are going to be disappointed that I can’t take them out shopping at the weekend”.
People in support of Purple Tuesday have said it raises the issue of accessibility in shops and high streets.
What has been the most surprising reply on social media, is that the disabled community is afraid of going out shopping, because they are scared of getting their benefits taken away.
It appears that introducing this Purple Tuesday the government have introduced a new fear factor in the disabled community creating a generation of people scared of the UK Government. With motoability cars being taken away, people been deemed fit for work, when they are not, transferring over to Universal Credit and the lack of disabled housing, the government needed something positive for the disabled community but again Purple Tuesday has not provided this and has backfired.
What was interesting to see is Purple Tuesday taking over Piccadilly Circus on the big screen when Piccadilly Circus is not accessible for most disabled people, in fact it is one of the most inaccessible places in London. You cannot access the tube station as there is no disabled access, you cannot access most of the shops as they are too small, and shops do not have any disabled changing rooms.
Mark Adams, CEO, of Purple Tuesday, will most likely get more recognition from Buckingham Palace adding to his OBE, for the hard work he has put into the project. He has created a discussion about accessibility in the high street and the wider community. But it does not change the fact that tomorrow nothing will have changed. For anyone with a disability they will still be going to the same place that they know they can access rather than having the disappointment of being turned away.
Purple Tuesday are calling it ‘The U.K.’s First Accessible Shopping Day’, when most people shop every week using their accessible wheelchairs and scooters. People will still be struggling to shop for years and will carry on struggling to shop in years to come.
It is going to raise awareness but is not going to change overnight; new disabled legislation needs to be introduced.
Tomorrow is Wednesday, and everything will go back to normal, the lack of ramp access and shopkeepers not caring.
Meanwhile, people with disabilities will go back to ordering shopping online, people will still be struggling to get out in their community, to get into their coffee shops and restaurants, because every day should be Purple Tuesday.
Having one day out of the year dedicated to disabled access and awareness is more of an insult.
What is needed is the government to take real action to realise that there is a significant problem in the UK and recognising the disabled community. People with disabilities are treated like second class citizens, they are worried about having their benefits sanctioned, having their motoability car taken away, not being able to access public transport, not being able to see friends and family and not being welcomed into the community. The government need to take radical action to make sure that every shop and every business is accessible for every person rather than just highlighting it on a Purple Tuesday.