Monday was the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. It is a United Nations-led day, and the theme this year is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.
To mark this occasion, I launched a new stakeholder engagement forum to bring the voices of disabled people closer to Government, especially those living outside London. I also launched a call for new Sector Champions to improve accessibility of services for disabled people.
I often meet disabled people who tell me about the challenges they face in work, using services, or simply trying to buy goods in a store or online. For retailers, this is a lost opportunity as they are missing out on £249 billion annual spend of disabled people and their families.
I believe these initiatives will contribute to delivering our vision to create a society that works for everyone, where all can participate fully and be included, and to our progress on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Network will create face to face and online forums for disabled people to share their views and experiences about policies and services that affect disabled people and will complement existing stakeholder relationships across Government. I hope local people will join our regional network.
To bring about change, my Ministerial Retail Forum was instrumental in supporting the UK’s first ‘Purple Tuesday’ on 13 November 2018. It was funded and organised by the disability organisation Purple. Over 500 organisations signed up to take part, of which 50 were disability organisations. Hundreds of thousands of retail staff engaged in accessibility and inclusivity initiatives, supported by a range of campaign resources to help improve retail awareness of what good customer service means for disabled people. The venture was popular with the public too: it trended on Twitter and was reported by many major news and broadcast networks.
The new Sector Champions for the countryside and heritage, product design, website accessibility, fashion, technology, food and drink will build on the work of my current 14 Sector Champions who work across diverse sectors – from music to insurance, and from arts and culture to transport. They use their influential status as leaders to drive improvements to the accessibility and quality of services and facilities in their sector.
Finally, I was pleased to work with Channel 4 and Purple Space, who have, together with a range of Disability Confident employers, produced a short film entitled “I don’t work properly”. The film features disabled colleagues from a range of Disability Confident organisations talking about disability employment, along with Last Leg presenter and comedian Adam Hills. Channel 4 has created a destination www.Channel4.com/purple to accompany the film and act as an information hub for those interested in disability employment challenges. You can also view the film at: https://youtu.be/sIxNyE6IHhI