Three in four disabled consumers say they have left a shop due to bad customer service

disabled consumers

A new campaign is calling for more retail and hospitality businesses to offer awareness training to their in-store staff so they can better meet the needs of the 11 million people in the UK with rights under disability legislation.

Purple, a social enterprise that works with both disabled people and the business community to promote opportunities around disability has launched ‘Help Me Spend My Money’ campaign to encourage more retail and hospitality businesses to ensure they are providing the same level of service to all their customers. They are also calling on them to join the government’s Disability Confident scheme which promotes the employment of disabled workers.

The campaign has been backed by leading shopping centre owner intu and launched at intu Lakeside in Thurrock yesterday. intu has been introducing a range of measures at its popular shopping and leisure destinations across the UK over the last two years to make sure they meet the needs of disabled shoppers. This includes introducing specialist training for staff to support those with autism and blindness.

Research conducted by Purple shows that over 80 per cent of disabled consumers choose to shop in places that actively support disabled people. They argue that, in a fiercely competitive market, brands that delight disabled consumers can win loyal customers and realise the potential of the ‘Purple Pound’ which the government estimates is worth annually £249bn to the economy.

“As a disabled customer, I have experienced many of the problems that prevent people like myself from spending more time, and therefore more money, in shops and restaurants. Plus, four in five disabled people have a hidden impairment, so it isn’t always obvious that they might need additional assistance,” explains Purple CEO Mike Adams.

“Poor service can take many forms, but one of the most common is a failure to engage or acknowledge disabled customers. In the majority of instances this doesn’t happen on purpose, it’s because staff are concerned about causing (unintentional) offence. Something as simple as saying ‘hello, can I help?’ can make a big difference. So what we’re saying is that investing in disability confidence isn’t just about social responsibility, there’s also a big commercial opportunity to be had if you get it right.”

Shopping, eating and drinking out rank in the top three most difficult experiences for disabled people based on accessibility, according to research conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions. A separate study by the Extra Costs Commission found that 75 per cent of disabled people and their families have left a shop because of poor customer service, and that UK businesses risk missing out on as much as £420 million a week through lost sales as a result.

As well as launch partner intu, Help Me Spend My Money has also received the support of M&S, and the Institute of Directors. They are calling on more businesses to join them in signing up to a ‘charter for change’ that commits them to: making Disability Awareness training available to in-store staff, having a website that meets independent accessibility guidance, providing key customer information in large print, braille, and easy read formats, taking steps to promote their disability confident status and signing up to the government’s Disability Confident scheme.


Commenting on the campaign, the Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, Penny Mordaunt, said: “Retailers must make their services accessible to everyone. It’s not only the responsible thing to do, it makes good business sense too. I lend my full support to Purple in their efforts to empower disabled people, both as employees and consumers.”

Claire Maydew, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at M&S said, “At M&S we put the customer at the heart of everything we do and our stores being accessible for everyone is extremely important to us – as part of our Plan A 2025 ambitions we want to be the most accessible store on the High Street. All our colleagues take part in disability awareness training and we encourage additional training, for example becoming a Dementia Friend. We’re proud of the work we do with a number of partners on improving accessibility for customers, and we’re delighted to support this important campaign”.

For more information on the campaign and advice on how your organisation can become disability confident, please visit