Celebrating milestones on the route to destination disability inclusion

4 December 2020

Purple bus image

It seems that disabled people and purple allies have waited all year at the bus stop for something to celebrate and then we are inundated with party buses!

On International Day of People with Disabilities it feels appropriate to pull over to acknowledge the road well-travelled by past and present disability activists and allies. I raise a glass to celebrate these anniversaries:

  • The fiftieth anniversary of the Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act (1970), the first legislation to recognise disabled people’s rights in areas as diverse as access, education, employment and mobility.
  • The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), a landmark piece of legislation making it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people and to provide equal opportunities.
  • The ten-year anniversary of the Equality Act which replaced previous anti-discrimination laws (including the DDA) with a broader, single Act.

A milestone is a stone set beside a road to mark the distance to a particular destination, so it feels like a very appropriate place to pull over and pause during Disability History Month (18 Nov to 18 Dec). Appropriately, the theme this year is, ‘Access: How far have we come? How far have we to go?’

Last month hosted Purple Tuesday, an international call to action to celebrate the purple pound – the spending power of disabled people and their families. It’s a milestone-awareness moment (there’s that word again!) for an issue that is recognised as being relevant 365 days a year. The Purple Tuesday bus was super-charged this year! The campaign:

  • Trended in the top ten worldwide on Twitter for a large part of the day, which is extraordinary when you think it was US election day and two days before the second Covid-19 lockdown in the UK.
  • Achieved a media reach of 17.4 million, across 272 pieces of media – up 51 percent on last year.

The folks behind Purple Tuesday are celebrating, but acknowledge it will count for very little if Purple Tuesday is perceived as a one-day awareness event and disabled people don’t feel, see and hear the impact.  It will count for nothing if Purple Tuesday doesn’t take on board the very loud feedback from organisations across all sectors, particularly SMEs, who say “we get it, we want it, but we need some support and guidance to do it right”.

We all have a part to play: disabled people need to be driving the bus; disabled people’s organisations need to be signposting in the right direction; policy makers need to be removing road blocks; and everyone needs to want to follow the route.

Yesterday, the route was lit up (literally!). PurpleSpace’s ‘Purple Light Up’ started in New Zealand and Australia at sunrise and finished at 17:00 in New York. It is a fully digital, worldwide broadcast sharing the growing commitment to disability inclusion, and appreciation of the economic contribution of disabled employees: a way to celebrate and connect with disabled people worldwide. 

Disability is a global issue, with 15 percent of the world’s population having an impairment – this equates to over one billion people, with a purchasing power of $8 trillion. That’s surely worth shining our purple headlights upon!

The questions to contemplate as we board the bus again are: how will we ensure the rights won twenty-five years ago are maintained; and how can we fast-track our route to full participation and equality of opportunities for disabled people? The road ahead remains long, but I get a real sense that more and more people are wanting to get onboard.

A milestone also signifies a change or stage in development, and the lemonade maker in me is optimistic that we are on the brink of real change. This year has been difficult in so many ways, but I have a sense that next year will mark a significant development in the acceleration to destination disability inclusion.