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Discrimination against the disabled costs economy billions

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Across the UK millions of disabled people are being unfairly left out to dry by employers.

Research by Purple, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving employment opportunities for disabled people, claims that just a five per cent increase in the number of disabled people in employment would boost GDP by £23 billion in 2030.

By employers showing reluctance over hiring a disabled person, for whatever reason, they are in fact foregoing their interest in the ‘purple pound’: a market worth well over £212 billion a year. This market, similar to that of LGBT’s ‘pink pound’, relies on the good relationship disabled people have with a company.

According to the study conducted by Purple, 45 per cent of UK businesses are nervous about hiring a disabled person, highlighting concerns in the interview process, not knowing whether to help with tasks such as opening doors or pulling out chairs, and helplessly falling into the realms of discrimination law.

Fewer than half of the 11.5 million people in the UK with disabilities are currently employed. By comparison, 85 per cent of the population without a registered disability are in work.

As a direct result of this imbalance, disabled people are expected to pay around £500 more a month on everyday amenities such as transport and shopping, as well as any additional equipment or care needed.

Beth Grossman, head of policy and public affairs at Purple, emphasises that some companies overly worry about catering for the disabled: “Most adjustments businesses need to make are straightforward. For example, disabled people rate friendly and helpful staff and good accessibility as the most important factors when shopping”.

Additionally, Ms Grossman touches on the inefficiency of the Access to Work scheme, a fund specialising in equipment, workplace adaptions and transport for the disabled. Despite the scheme in place, 74 per cent of disabled adults felt like they had lost out on a job opportunity because of their impairment.

While some businesses are lagging behind, firms such as M&S and Uber are setting precedents with their clothing range for the disabled, and wheelchair accessible vehicles respectively.