Breaking down barriers

Changing the conversation around people with disabilities in the workforce  


Last summer the Acceleris team worked on one of its most professionally and emotionally rewarding campaigns to date, launching disability organisation Purple to market at a time when Government cuts and policy change pose huge challenges for the UK’s disabled community.

The statistics are astounding. The UK's 11.5 million disabled people make up 19% of the population, the largest minority segment of the consumer population. The “Purple Pound” is worth £212 billion per annum in the UK, and yet despite this wellbeing standards often fall well below the UK average.

Four years on from the launch of the UK Government's Disability Confident scheme, 45% of UK businesses are still reluctant to hire people with disabilities. It doesn’t take a keen eye to recognise that in 2017, this is unacceptable.

Early last year, we were approached by the senior team at a new and as yet unnamed disability organisation. Mike Adams – who would become Purple’s chief executive – had a clear vision; to be the catalyst for change, creating a world where disability presents no barrier for individuals or business.

Vision and ambition

This vision was supported by tangible goals; over the next decade they aim to help more than 20,000 disabled people to find permanent jobs, support thousands of businesses in becoming Disability Confident and match 25,000 personal assistants to disabled employers.

They had big ambition. Our challenge was to match that with an equally bold and brave launch within a hugely crowded sector.

It was a huge task but one that played to our strengths for integrated campaigns, working across research, brand development and messaging, media relations, event management and digital production. We had just months to complete the programme if we were to capitalise on the Government’s re-launch of its Disability Confident programme, set for the summer.

From research, it became evident that the organisation was unique in giving both business and individuals an equal voice in the employment debate. From this, the name “Purple” was born, along with the strapline “Changing the Conversation”.

We commissioned the UKs largest ever survey into business attitudes to recruiting disabled employees. It found, amongst other things, that one in five business owners admit when hiring they’re worried about interviewing someone with a disability should they say the wrong thing. A small thing having a huge detrimental impact.


The findings gave us our media launch hook, but the jewel in the launch strategy crown was securing the opportunity for Purple to open trading at the London Stock Exchange on launch day – something almost unheard-of for non-listed companies. Autistic television soap actor Jules Robertson, who appears in the BBC’s Holby City, spoke at the event about the challenges facing disabled employees on a daily basis. This was followed by an exclusive evening networking event for 200 Government departments, banking groups and blue-chip companies in the city, including an exclusive photography exhibition featuring successful public figures with disabilities including Richard Branson.

The launch was supported by an exclusive evening networking event for 200 Government departments, banking groups and blue-chip companies at city law firm CMS Cameron McKenna. This included an exclusive photography exhibition celebrating ability not disability, featuring entertainers, sports stars and celebrities including the likes of Richard Branson and David Weir.

The campaign secured huge exposure across national media as well as a high level of engagement from business organisations such as the Institute of Directors. But most importantly, it delivered real commercial opportunities for Purple to make a difference. Purple is now working with two of the UK’s largest local authorities to deliver services to both disabled people and business in the regions.

Kristine Alderman, CEO office and central services manager at Purple, said of the campaign launch: “Both the morning and evening events were a big success, and there was a real buzz at both around Purple. We had emails from some of those who attended, thanking us and saying they would like a further discussion with us – providing an important platform to start the conversation.”

With companies like Purple working to help break down barriers between disabled people and the wider community, we’re hopefully moving towards a society where we value the contributions made.

European Excellence AwardsThis campaign won the 2016 European Excellence Award in the category "Issues and Reputation Management". To find out more about the awards, head to the Excellence Awards website.