Tag Archives: consumer power

Why businesses need to think about disabled consumers

Will Pike is a games developer from London whose parody of Channel 4’s Superhumans advert went viral last year. Tens of thousands of people have signed his petition for better access. In this blog, he talks about how this affects disabled consumers, and what needs to change in media representation.

Back in September 2016, I made a short film to highlight the poor disabled access found up and down our high streets. As a wheelchair user, I wanted to demonstrate how frustrating these obstructions are from my everyday perspective. I also wanted to demonstrate that establishments are missing out. By not being accessible, they’re losing multiple paying customers. Regardless of the fact that I can’t walk or overcome a set of stairs without assistance, I still have money in pocket to spend.

The ‘Purple Pound’ is worth in the region of £240 billion. This spending power is exactly why society should be a more opportune place for everyone. Why are so many businesses unable to recognise this?

We need to see more disabled people in mainstream media

Whilst accessibility is fundamental, it’s no good just making a bunch of logistical improvements if attitudes to disability don’t change. I’m not simply talking about seeing disabled people as an untapped purple cash-cow. I want society to see the purple person behind the purple pound. It’s so important that disabled people are given a more prominent place in mainstream media, where they can contribute to reversing poor public perception and ignorance.

Will in his wheelchair outside a restaurant where there's a step
Man in a wheelchair unable to access a restaurant

Fundamentally, this is the reason why diversity is so important. If we only have a monosyllabic representation of society displayed upon our TV screens, then we’ll continue to limit the prospects of anybody who doesn’t conform to a notion of the perceived norm. We must challenge this. It obviously goes beyond disability to include race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and age. It also means evolving our perceptions of beauty and happiness. For instance, in the film ‘Me Before You’, the main character is a quadriplegic chap called Will, who ultimately concedes that life with a disability, even with love and financial stability, is so miserable that he must end it all. What kind of message does this send out to the world? For those with a disability it’s insulting and heartless. While for those without a disability it simply reaffirms the (misplaced) need for pity.

Change is happening, but we need more

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Change is happening, but society needs to do more than the bare minimum. We need to see more disabled people on telly, while ensuring that the inclusion of disability isn’t a token gesture toward equality. There also needs to be a comprehensive strategy to improve the quality of life for all disabled people, positioning us as simply part of the normal spectrum of human experience. Only then will society truly benefit from the Purple Pound.

At present only 2.5% of all characters on TV screens are disabled. It’s hardly surprising then that 81% of the 13 million disabled people in the UK do not feel they are well-represented on TV and in the media. This has to change. It’s time for businesses to recognise the value of the purple pound and put more disabled people at the heart of their campaigns.

Will supports Scope with our mission to drive everyday equality, so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Visit our website to find out more about our work and how you can support us.

Read more blogs on the power of disabled consumers.

How are extra costs being reduced for disabled people?

Today (October 19) sees the launch of a new report by the Extra Costs Commission looking at progress made to reduce additional costs for disabled people.

Scope research demonstrates that on average, disabled people spend £550 a month on costs associated with their disability. These costs include things like expensive items of equipment such as powered wheelchairs or screen readers, paying more for energy bills, or facing higher insurance premiums.

Whilst Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment play an important role in helping disabled people meet some of these costs, this report makes it clear that more work is needed to tackle the financial penalty of disability.

Extra Costs Commission

Addressing the problem of extra costs was the focus of a year-long inquiry from July 2014 to June 2015, the Extra Costs Commission, which identified ways in which government, businesses, disability organisations and disabled people can drive down these costs.

Earlier this year, the Commission reconvened to review the progress made in delivering the recommendations it outlined.

Disabled people demanding more as consumers

The Commission identified that households with a disabled person spend £212 billion a year, the so-called ‘purple pound’. As such, disabled people and their families have the potential to be a powerful consumer base and influence how businesses serve them.

One example of this happening involves Rita Kutt, whose four-year-old grandson Caleb has cerebral palsy. Struggling to find popper vests to fit Caleb, she contacted Marks and Spencer to see whether they could stock these in larger sizes.

This led to Marks and Spencer developing a specialist clothing range for disabled children, which includes popper vests and sleepsuits. These are significantly cheaper than similar items sold by specialist retailers, making a huge difference to families with disabled children who face additional costs.

You can read more about Rita’s story on Scope’s community.

Disability organisations empowering disabled people as consumers

A number of disability organisations have been supporting disabled people and businesses with driving down disability-related costs.

We’ve created a ‘money hub’ with information to help disabled people manage their money more effectively, whilst Nimbus Disability has started to offer discounts to users of its Access Card. Whilst these are both fairly new, disabled people have so far responded positively to both of these initiatives.

Businesses serving disabled people better

Alongside the example of Marks and Spencer mentioned above, Uber has been thinking about how it can meet the needs of disabled people better.

They have developed a new service called UberASSIST for passengers requiring additional assistance whilst travelling. Uber has also introduced wheelchair accessible vehicles to its fleet in London. They plan to grow these services to enable more disabled people across the UK to access them.

There are a number of taxi and private hire vehicle providers that serve disabled people well, and it’s good to see Uber creating even more choice in the market for disabled passengers.

Read more about Kelly Perks-Bevington’s experience of using taxis and private hire vehicles.

What next?

Much more needs to happen to reduce extra costs for disabled people, so it is important that the momentum generated by the Commission is not lost.

As such, the Commission calls upon different groups to build upon progress so far to tackle disability-related costs. For instance, disabled people should continue to raise the profile of the ‘purple pound’, whilst company boards of businesses should act as champions for disabled consumers. A cross-governmental approach is also needed to help drive down the range of additional costs faced by disabled people.

Now that the Commission has ended, Scope will be taking forward the work of this inquiry, with a focus on addressing the extra costs of energy and insurance for disabled people.

For further information, please speak to Minesh Patel, Senior Policy Adviser at minesh.patel@scope.org.uk or on 020 7619 7375.

Come on supermarkets – please stock nappies for disabled kids

Laura is a mum on a mission. She’s noticed a big gap in the market, and is campaigning for supermarkets to start stocking nappies in larger sizes. Here she tells her story. 

“Nothing worth having comes easy.”

Laura and her son Brody smiling on a rollercoaster rideMy life (well, house) is full of quotes. So much so, my best friend jokes with me about it. Still, on the days I feel like I’m fighting a lost cause, this one drives me.

Around a month ago, I started a change.org petition asking leading UK supermarkets to consider manufacturing or selling larger sized nappies, for incontinent children with additional support needs.

There are thousands of children in the UK, older than “typical” children, who are not potty trained. Naturally, as a result they require bigger nappies. Are they easy to find? Of course not!

My son Brody

A close-up photo of Brody amilingBrody has Global Development Delay, epilepsy, hypotonia and hypermobility. In our special world, he is known to a large community as a SWAN – not yet diagnosed with a syndrome to explain his disabilities. Brody is a tall four-year-old. He wears the largest nappies available in supermarkets (– 6+),  but they are fast becoming too small for him. Frustration with this led to my campaign.

Whenever my campaign is posted somewhere on social media, I get people commenting with recurring suggestions: the continence service, pull ups and cloth nappies. Let me explain why, despite this service and these products, I strongly believe there is a huge gap in the market for bigger nappies in stores.

What’s currently available

Brody has recently been referred to the continence service and hopefully, after a waiting time (my friend has been waiting six months so far) we will receive a set amount of nappies per day. These will arrive in bulk. The continence service is great and very much needed for families like ours. However, the service itself is inconsistent, varying greatly depending on where you live in the UK. This becomes more apparent, the more I speak to others. For example, I’ve heard from families who have children with autism who aren’t entitled, families who are only allowed two nappies a day, and families who aren’t eligible for the service until their children are six to eight years old. One woman told me her child has severe chronic constipation, requiring medication and at least 10 nappies daily. But she’s not yet entitled to any help from the NHS.

Pull Ups, which come in slightly larger sizes, are designed for children in the process of potty training. Hence there are fewer nappies in a pack and the absorbency isn’t as good. They’re not adequate for a child who is doubly incontinent. Not only this, it would cost a small fortune for parents to buy Pull Ups, as one pack may last only a day or two.

Cloth nappies may suit some children with additional support needs, and there are some fantastic companies where parents can buy these online. However, this isn’t a best fit solution for every parent and child for many reasons (although, I’ve found a lot of cloth nappy fans will argue this point).

Life costs more when you’re disabled

The simple truth is thousands of parents require larger nappies because their children are either ineligible for the continence service, or require more nappies than they receive. As such, they are forced to buy online because they have no other choice. These nappies come with the classic ‘special needs’ price tag – overpriced! The sad reality is – life costs more when you’re disabled.

Online shopping can also be inconvenient because you have to wait for an order to be delivered. Not as simple as popping to your local supermarket when you’ve run out of a product.

Disabled consumers are a big market

Brody on a red plastic rockerIf you are in my shoes, you’ll be all too aware that people don’t think about these things unless it affects them. However, it really shouldn’t be this hard. The Extra Costs Commission report noted that there are over 12 million disabled people in the UK – that is almost 1 in 5 of the population – and our households’ expenditure, the so-called ‘purple pound’, totals £212 billion a year. That’s a lot of money. And high street businesses could take advantage of it.

I strongly agree with Scope that by sharing information about our needs and expectations as shoppers, and by being more demanding as consumers, companies will have the market data to serve us better. We need to shout loud and let our voices be heard!

We are a community, used to fighting battles. Please fight this one with me. Sign the petition and share it with your friends. Maybe together we can make a difference – one that would benefit many families.

My message to the supermarkets?

You have the opportunity to take the lead and cater to a huge consumer group – one that is often disregarded. Please listen. This is about supply, demand and inclusion. It’s simple – there is a demand for this product and you can provide it. Just take M&S as a wonderful example. Grandmother, Rita Kutt wrote to them and explained the need for larger sized clothes with popper buttons for disabled children. They listened! We are consumers – like everyone else – that should be heard.

What do you think? Could you benefit from being able to buy this product in a supermarket near you?

The Extra Costs Commission has called for disabled consumers to be ‘bold and loud’ just like Laura.

Consumer power! M&S release new clothes range for disabled kids

Rita’s adorable young grandson Caleb has cerebral palsy. He needs nappies, and he’s also peg fed through his stomach, so accessible clothing with poppers is pretty essential. Rita noticed a huge gap in the market for affordable clothing for older children, and contacted Marks and Spencer to see if they could help. 

This blog has now moved to our online community.

Join Rita on our online community where she tells her story.