Purple Power

Green for the environment. Pink for gay people. Purple for disabled people.

You may have heard of all three colours and their representations. However, purple and disability is definitely a newer one for me.

It’s a very clever idea too. For many people, including disabled people, it may be scoffed at. Why will putting a colour next to a group of people, fighting for their rights, help in any way? Well, it simplifies the conversation.

If you are a legal person who cares for people’s human rights, you’ll be pushing the United Nation’s argument for equality of disabled people. If you are political, you’ll be pushing for one of two arguments. Left wingers will say raise taxes and spend more on supporting disabled people. Right wingers will say cut taxes and empower everybody to work (I almost wrote ‘walk’ there), regardless of their ability.

The reality is we need a mixture of all the above, and more. Particularly depending on the individuals’ personal circumstance.

Unfortunately, we live in a time that doesn’t listen or act upon the more socialist/human rights stances. The Conservative government are stripping back Human Rights and welfare spending. It’s not great for disabled people, or anyone born or propelled into unexpected negative circumstances.

The colour purple represents the spending power and economic value of households with disabled people. According to government research, it’s worth about £212bn every year. Presumably this includes big items like care services and mobility equipment, purchased from government money. Nonetheless we represent a valuable market. The argument goes that businesses should have inclusive products and services, plus disabled employees, for more profit.

This jars with the social and human argument. Disabled people should be supported with good health and social care (as should everybody) because it’s the right thing to do, not because it makes businesses richer.

As we live in difficult times of austerity from the financial crash or political games (or any other reason you believe), economics is the prevailing language. The day disabled people are seen as valuable people, not burdens, is a good start. Regardless of your preferred reasons/language. Fact.

There are, and always will be, people who can’t work and who have little money of their own. This is where the government always must address the basic needs for people. In its simplest form, we need invested in for daily life; to survive and to become our best selves.

When you look at the economics as a government from investing in disabled people, it’s actually better anyway. With good health and social care, the long term costs to the NHS decrease. The people employed in these industries produce more tax revenue and consumer spending. Once we (disabled people) are independent, a good percentage of us can work. And so the benefits of disabled people paying taxes and spending money on goods and services is realised.

It starts with government and ends with business. It’s the way of the modern world.

If the colour purple can become synonymous with social government investment and business inclusion — everyone will win.

For me, the first priority of the government is to crack how they test people’s needs. Naturally, people will try and trick the system. But the current tests need to be empathetic to people who genuinely need the support, and are not likely to suddenly wake up without their disability. I wonder what the costs of testing are versus the actual incidence of fraud too. Probably not as strong as we’d imagine.

If we can overcome this hurdle, the rest is simple — Invest. Independence. Powerful consumers. Hard workers.

Purple Pound. Purple Progress. Purple Power!

By Martyn Sibley
CEO Disability United
Twitter: @martynsibley

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