Ensuring your organisation is attractive to Disabled People isn’t just a matter of removing physical barriers


At SPECTRUM we spend lots of time working with organisations to enable them to ‘gain access’ to Disabled People – both in terms of creating inclusive services, but also helping the organisation to be attractive to Disabled People and therefore to gain access to the ‘Purple Pound’

(Purple Pound: The spending power of Disabled People, variously described at £212BN. See What is the Purple Pound for more information).

The point being that any organisation that doesn’t provide accessible and attractive services directly; or via a ‘reasonable adjustment’ is:

  • breaking the Law: Equality Act 2010
  • limiting its business opportunities: no business can afford to discard such a large section of its customer base or skilled and creative employees (There are 12.9 million people in the UK)

When thinking about how your organisation can ensure it is attractive to Disabled People, it is easy to think of ramps, high visibility furniture and hearing assistance aids which meet the needs of people with physical or sensory impairments; but how many of us think about the needs of people with HIDDEN impairments?

We are, of course talking about millions of people, and – in fact, whilst we often think of Disabled People as Wheelchair users, the reality is that only about 10% of Disabled People actually use wheelchairs regularly.

Therefore, how do we ensure your organisation is attractive to the 90% of Disabled People who do not use wheelchairs?

The answer of course is to work with organisations like SPECTRUM. We can help your organisation to be attractive to all Disabled People; and to do so cost effectively.

So, to whet your appetite, please read the story of one of our members of staff with a hidden impairment. It shows how businesses need to think clearly and creatively about being attractive to people with hidden impairments – it also shows very clearly how costly it can be (to the organisation and the individual) to get it wrong.



Water, water everywhere – but not a drop of (diet) Coke* to drink

By Jennie Musson, Membership & Information Officerp3

I wanted to write about the following experience I had recently to highlight the issue of hidden impairments, and also the lack of awareness about hidden impairments generally. When Joe Public thinks about Disabled People, more often than not, the image of a wheelchair user springs to mind. However, when someone has a hidden impairment, then sometimes they encounter barriers other people may never have considered. I have had Type 1 diabetes for 42 years, have been using the insulin pump since 2007 and mostly do not encounter many problems when out and about, but on this particular day, that was about to change.

I was visiting my brother in a well-known seaside resort to celebrate his birthday. In this spirit of joviality and celebration, we headed off, parents in tow, to the nearest watering-hole (which shall remain forever nameless).

“I am sure they will do something for you”, remarked my brother, blissfully unaware of the events that were about to unfold.

We all piled in to the pub and my brother started ordering drinks. As I did not want to order alcohol or fruit juice which affect my blood sugar levels and I was planning to drink the next day, I decided it would be better to have a Diet Coke. When my brother ordered the aforementioned, there was an awkward silence and then the barman replied “We don’t do Diet Coke”. We all looked at each other and then my brother tried again with “What sugar-free drinks do you do?” Again, the awkward pause , then – “I can do fizzy water-“, which I declined, while giving the offending barman the evil eye. He then volunteered to make me a cup of tea. I have got some standards when in a pub, so this was similarly declined. The upshot was that I sat there with no drink at all, feeling rather annoyed and pretending not to be – after all, it was my brother’s birthday and I didn’t wish to spoil it by giving someone a good hard poke in the eye. After this, we decided to go to another bar and I breathed a sigh of relief.

We enter the second bar (which shall also remain nameless) and ordered the same, this time getting the snooty response “Oh, we don’t stock Coca-Cola products”. I did manage to restrain myself from having a full-on screaming fit on the floor like a toddler, but it was a close thing. In the end, I did manage to obtain a diet Tonic Water (oh, the luxury!) and went to my seat feeling as if it were the Holy Grail.

When I look back on that afternoon, I feel mildly amused, and now make jokes with my husband about “the bars that time forgot” but also annoyed, because both of those establishments obviously think that my custom (and that of people like me) is not important to them. I felt like a second-class citizen and in this day and age, this is unacceptable. It may be a small thing to a bar owner, but for me this is an access issue and one that could be easily remedied, if there was the will to do so.

* Other brands are available!



One thought on “Ensuring your organisation is attractive to Disabled People isn’t just a matter of removing physical barriers

  1. Jennie,

    Your story is ‘amusing’ yet it highlights such an important issue about hidden impairments.

    SPECTRUM inspires us to examine our mentality about disability, awareness of inclusion, discrimination, and social isolation.

    Thanks for pointing out this inequality issue with your real experience (with your vivid expressions), which makes it easier for us to relate to.

    I must try a diet Tonic Water next time.


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