Jeremy Balfour: Time business accessed the purple pound

Jeremy Balfour is a Lothian Conservative MSP. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Jeremy Balfour is a Lothian Conservative MSP. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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This Saturday coming is Disabled Access Day and it’s all about visiting somewhere that you have never been to before and trying something new in an atmosphere of cooperation, safety and fun. The day aims to raise awareness about the importance of disabled access and encourage conversations between disabled people, businesses and venues.

Disabled Access Day was first held in March 2015 and is the brainchild of Edinburgh-based Euan’s Guide. Founded in 2013 by Euan MacDonald, a power chair user, and his sister Kiki, Euan’s Guide is a disabled access review website that helps to share information about the world’s accessible places with disabled people, their friends and family.

Disabled Access Day is also an opportunity for attractions and venues that have great accessibility to showcase the services and the facilities they provide. This is very important for disabled people. Research conducted by Euan’s Guide revealed that 96 per cent of visitors would consider returning to a venue with good access.

The ‘purple pound’ is a term used to describe the spending power of disabled people and their families and presents a commercial opportunity. Its influence is growing to proportions that businesses can no longer ignore. Research from the Business Disability Forum reveals that the ‘purple pound’ is worth £212 billion and businesses that are exploring innovative ways of enabling everybody to benefit from products and services are tapping into a lucrative market.

However, let’s not get carried away. There is still a long way to go and businesses do not always adequately respond to the additional needs of disabled people. For most businesses, it is most likely not a deliberate policy to exclude people, but due to a lack of awareness.

Disabled Access Day recognises that society is not yet barrier-free for all and until that day comes, they will continue to raise awareness by promoting the positive actions and events that are taking place across the UK that are inclusive and accessible.

This year Disabled Access Day is asking all venues and events taking part to have a Changing Place toilet in close proximity or be actively supporting the Changing Places movement.

Changing Places toilets have a toilet, basin, ceiling hoist and adult-sized changing table with space for a wheelchair user and carers. For many profoundly disabled people and their family and carers, access to this type of facility is the difference between being able to go out and being stuck at home.

If we want to ensure we live in a society that is inclusive and accessible for everyone it’s important for a range of different partners to work together. That is why initiatives like Disabled Access Day are important as they help to create solutions. So, this Saturday, go out, try something new and write a review. Information on participating venues and events can be found at www.disabledaccessday.com

Jeremy Balfour is a Lothian Conservative MSP.