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Employers must do more to support people with disabilities Despite being introduced in 2013, the Disability Confident scheme is failing those that need it most. Only 0.29% of businesses in the UK are part of the disability confident scheme. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that we discuss the working lives of those with disabilities. We need to raise the profile of this issue and get people talking about inclusivity within the workplace, alongside the changes employers need to make amidst the pandemic. In the UK, it is thought that some seven million people of working age have a disability, which adds up to an awful lot of spending power. This is known as the "purple pound" and is worth around £249bn to the economy. Purple Tuesday is a nation-wide campaign to improve retail experiences for disabled people and improve retailers access to the purple pound. COVID-19 has created even more challenges for those with disabilities such as social distancing, lack of accessibility to lifts, and the inability to communicate with face-masks. The Purple Tuesday initiative which encourages businesses to embed more inclusive practices - training in British Sign Language and customer service training to improve staff’s communication skills with disabled customers has never been more needed. The impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities does not stop there. 15% of workers in shutdown sectors have a disability. They also make up 17% of vulnerable jobs in the retail sector. Even those working from home face difficulties in accessing the adjustments and equipment they need to work effectively. This puts disabled workers at an unnecessary disadvantage. For many these jobs provide an essential element of normality and allow those with a disability to be more independent both socially and financially. Therefore we're using Purple Tuesday to call for employers to sign up to the Disability Confident Scheme, building trust among disabled people that employers will support them when they are most in need. Charlotte Burchill, 19, ambassador for ‘I have a voice’ and disability rights campaigner - "As a young person with a disability, I feel more needs to be done by employers to accommodate my needs. Studying at university whilst having a part-time job has given the independence I need. Yet, as someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable in a Tier 3 area, the prospect of going to work in the retail sector has been daunting." Isabella Gregson, 17, ambassador for I Have a Voice and disability rights campaigner - ‘Finding out that only 0.29% of businesses are Disability Confident shocked me. I noticed how disproportionately affected people with disabilities are in daily life, especially struggling during the COVID crisis. As someone without a disability, it is easy to live life through a narrow lens however, I want to educate those who live with this outlook on what equality really looks like. Living in Kent, this area is of primary concern for me. Disability employment statistics in Kent sit at 59.9% in comparison to 83.7% of those without a disability. We have a responsibility to give people with disabilities every opportunity for employment in our area which is why the promotion of the Disability Confident Scheme is vital.’ Grace Spicer, 18, Ambassador for 'I have a voice' - "As a person with a hidden disability, I value the importance of being understood by an employer who knows about how to accommodate my needs whilst still making me feel included. People with disabilities can open up a world of new perspectives and ideas for an employer, we just need the opportunity to open that door in the first place. Purple Tuesday is a time for reflection and awareness, so many opportunities are being shut away from people with disabilities due to lack of awareness." The Disability Confident scheme supports employers to make the most of the talents disabled people can bring to their businesses. Disability Confident organisations are playing a leading role by ensuring the behaviour and cultures in their own businesses, networks and communities are inclusive. The scheme also helps customers and other businesses identify those employers who are committed to equality in the workplace. Yet just 0.29% of businesses in the UK are part of the scheme. This is not good enough. Now more than ever, those with disabilities need the support of their employers. ------------------------- Sources The Equalities Act 2010: House of Commons Library Labour Force Survey, 2019 Q4, using IFS definition of vulnerable sectors: Disabled People Against Cuts’ (DPAG) submission to Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into the DWP’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, 23 April 2020: The Disability Confident Scheme:

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