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  • Writer's picturePhilip J Connolly

"To the metaverse and back to the universe"

Your invitation to join the DRN purple trade mission and secure your place at our exhibition.

In February 2017 the Government estimated the "Purple Pound" at £249 billion in the UK alone. The "Purple Pound" is the spending power of disabled people. At the time I was struck by a thought. Why send trade missions to China to tap into Chinese consumer spending when there are billions of purple pounds not circulating in the UK because about seven million disabled people are not served well by our domestic markets. Since pioneering the "Purple Pound" in 2011 case studies have gradually revealed how disabled consumers might best be served.

Here's how to join our virtual online purple trade mission.

First make people aware that this market exists. Visit Britain have nudged the hospitality industry by informing them that the consumer spending of disabled people in their sector is worth £15 billion. Small wonder that in recent years I have advised businesses on running accessible conferences, developers in Hampshire access in the built environment and attended such launch events as Fiona Jarvis' "Blue Badge Guide."

Secondly identify your mature consumer markets where sales appear static. Then switch your advertising to disabled people. Feature them in your storylines like Mars did with Maltesers when they do advertising slots on Channel 4.

Third. Train your staff to understand what the disabled customer wants. When the inter-Continental Hotel Group trained their telephone booking centre staff to ask the right questions and make reference to the availability of a carer's bed in the room I am told their bookings went up 9%.

Fourth. Demand more from your designers. The Singapore Times rang me to tell me about Tommy Hilfiger . Their designers had taken their existing mens clothing range and with almost imperceptible tweaks to buttons such as bigger buttonholes and magnetic fixtures made it easier for disabled people such as those with Parkinsons disease to wear and of course buy.

Fifth. Make your disability provision such as reasonable adjustments known via your website and publicity materials. The Alzheimer Society sells a range of goods adapted for people with dementia such as the popular large print clock with the date.

Lastly consider how and in what circumstances disabled people leave home to make a purchase and what support they have to do this. Not everything is done on line especially by those digitally excluded of which disabled people are the biggest demographic. This consideration may for example lead to investment in low floor buses on rural bus routes.

Whilst helping the corporate world to access the Purple Pound it may help disabled people to obtain more customised goods and services but risks underplaying the benefits. Shareholder dividend may gain whereas without policy interventions disability employment may be relatively unaffected. The Disability Resilience Network (DRN) will ask the consumer watch dog magazine "Which" to monitor the recruitment of disabled people amongst those businesses who successfully make changes that increase their disabled customer base. We will also press for this to be measured through their disability confident scheme. The Government has the opportunity to secure this policy change amongst FTSE 500 companies when it responds to its recent consultation on mandatory reporting.

So much for the need for disability inclusion in real space. There are existing options in cyberspace too. I was once sent the link to a growing community of second lifers with disabilities. Second lifers are people who interact on line via avators with self-generated personalities. This particular community were disabled wheelchair users who met on line in a virtual three dimensional world at a discothèque called "Wheeelies." They bought computer generated image shoes to dance in. They could choose which shoes to purchase and paid a few pence for each pair. Not much income perhaps for a designer until it is realised that millions play e-sports and there are a great many low-cost purchases. This opens up the possibility of inclusive designers trialling designs for real space in virtual; space and even earning an income from doing so.

It also suggests the need for inclusive designers to interact with the oncoming metaverse. The metaverse is a number of virtual 3 D worlds conceptualised as a single universe. In this immersive experience early adopters are likely to spend considerable time and make numerous decisions. The DRN trade mission will seek investment in both the accessibility of the universe and the metaverse to disabled people with consideration of the need for economic participation.

We appeal to the UK Government appointed accessibility ambassadors to join the trade mission. The conference industry could respond with the first purple trade exhibition with workshops and space for collaborations to emerge. The first use of the word metaverse was in the 1992 novel "Snow Crush" and it is the case that the future often emerges from fiction . The "Shockwave Rider" was an earlier example in 1976. Consequently I offer the following fictional catalogue for the exhibition.

Build it in - disability resilience and integration exhibition:

  1. Advances in understanding the needs of disabled consumers with consumer rights - opening address

  2. Fiction and entertainment industry portrayal of disability and adaptation - readings and video clips and VR by novelists and actors

  3. Digital fabrication and making adaptations - fab lab sector

  4. State of research in UK universities - Innovate UK and UKRI

  5. Purple Pound - Purple Space, Purple Goat, We are purple to be invited

  6. UK as soft power leaders in global assistive technology markets - showcasing medical technology exercised by the patient

  7. One algorithm doesn't fit all - Ai and VR chat - Mathematical Society

  8. Smart cities are accessible cities - emergent technology in the hands of disabled highway and transportation engineers

  9. Disabled people as the innovative ‘Evangineers’ - training and skills acquisition

  10. Solving the systemic crisis, getting to 2030 with the right values - the future beyond the future.

Investors are you ready?

Join the Disability Resilience Network via the free form at and make sure you are in other people's future plans and not just your own.


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