Purple. It’s a colour historically associated with royalty, faith, vanity, creativity and even mourning. But in recent times, it’s become associated with the disability agenda across the world, without anyone really knowing why.
It got me thinking about the power of colour, how it’s used to create and unite movements all around the world and how people with disabilities have started to tap into this to create a movement for real and sustainable social change.
Many social causes are linked to a specific colour and many of them are so well known that they’re embedded in our consciousness; for example, think pink for breast cancer, red for AIDS/ HIV, and green for the environment. For these causes, the link has become strong enough that people use those colours as a way of representing themselves.
And, while not a single colour, the use of the rainbow by LGBT people is a way of signalling that they are part of a group of people with a shared identity, shared experiences and a shared sense of what they need to progress in life. A unified community.
It’s clear, therefore, that colour has a really important role to play in bringing people together and, while many colours are used for multiple causes, it’s less important what the colour is, or whether it’s being used for other reasons, and more important that those associating themselves with the colour, feel connected.
In our ever disconnected and increasingly diverse world, the power of colour to help us connect to and feel part of a community and know that we’re not alone cannot be overlooked. It’s the reason why, I believe, so many of the colour-based movements have been so successful.
However, purple is still not fully synonymous with disability, and so I’ve been thinking about what we can do to start to bring everyone together to embed it in the minds of people with disabilities, their allies and the general public.
Disability is such a wide spectrum of conditions, experiences and abilities and so it can be really hard to have a sense of collective togetherness. The colour purple can change that. Without saying anything, it provides the glue that binds people together, that creates a sense of community and says more than a word ever could.
Where there has already been traction, it’s coming from organisations using purple as their calling card, embedding it into their brand and encouraging others to adopt purple into their own personal brand. Organisations like PurpleSpace haven’t just taken purple to the core of their brand but are working tirelessly to unlock the power and value that come with building a movement for real, sustained and valuable change.
So, what could we all be doing to get purple embedded as the colour for the disability agenda?
- Share and promote some of the brilliant campaigns or movements championing purple in the disability agenda. Coming soon is the UK Purple Tuesday campaign in November, aimed at the retail industry; and then the global #PurpleLightUp movement, ignited by employee networks, which takes place on 3 December, encouraging everyone to take part. Promote these campaigns and movements, and ensure that we share and talk about the positive narratives being encouraged by these transformative conversations.
- Add purple subtly when you’re talking about disability in your communications – whether it’s blogs, vlogs, publications, posters, videos, leaflets or anything else. Whenever you’re talking about disability, make it purple!
- Label it purple – as well as using purple when talking about disability, look for opportunities to drop ‘purple’ into conversations, writing and talks. Whether it’s talking about the ‘purple pound’ (the value of disabled consumer spending power), purple talent (disabled talent) or whatever else you want to brand purple. The more we talk it about it, the more it will become embedded.
We can all help to speed things up and grow the purple community. Want to know more about ‘why purple?’. PurpleSpace, the world’s only professional development hub for disability network leaders, has produced a short video to explain why purple. Check it out at www.purplespace.org/purple-light-up where you can also find more information about the global movement, #PurpleLightUp powered by PurpleSpace.
David Caldwell is a Digital Accessibility Manager at Barclays and a Founding Ambassador of PurpleSpace