By Debra Ruh
The American author Alice Walker instructed us well in her classic novel, “The Color Purple”. Forgive the language, but it gives persuasive punch and power to her words:
That’s how it is with purple, a hue that communicates royalty, majesty, and power.
And that is what brings us to the #PurpleLightUp movement, a global call to action that demands that the voices of all people around the world be heard, specifically people with disabilities and their inclusion in the workforce.
Consider these numbers:
You get the point.
Those numbers, though troubling, help tell the story of why the #PurpleLightUp movement matters so much. It’s a network of disability confident employees, networks, allies and champions driving business change on disability from the inside out. The goal? To increase global acceptance of the disabled in the workforce, which has been a historically-untapped resource for the economy.
In short, it’s a revolution, and it is an exciting time to have the United States join in these Global Celebrations.
Julian John, Managing Director of Delsion, a people and development consultancy that focuses on supporting organizations around Learning & Development and Inclusion. Delsion has a social goal of: “Making Wales a leading nation for inclusion in the workplace, specifically around disability.”
Mr. John is one of the Ambassadors of #PurpleLightUp and has worked for a quarter-century in senior-level human resources. In an HR role, his credo has always been “People Are People; Talent is Talent and Potential is Potential.”
He’s always worked to bring the disabled into the workforce at every level. But since becoming disabled himself, that commitment has intensified, underpinning his support and involvement in helping to raise awareness of the #PurpleLightUp movement.
“I’ve realized the added power behind this message and the opportunities that lie within recognizing and celebrating the contribution that people with disabilities make not only to the economy but in the workplace,” he said. “The #PurpleLightUp encapsulates the engagement, drive, and resourcefulness that typifies the inclusion of people with disabilities within any organization.”
Kate Nash, OBE, agrees. #PurpleLightUp has captured the imagination of disabled employees and their firms across the globe, she said. Nash is the founder of PurpleSpace.org, the world’s only networking and professional development hub for disabled employees, network and resource group leaders, allies and champions across all sectors and trades.
Nash is also the creator of #PurpleLightUp and is focused on creating international unity among the disabled, celebrating the talents and economic contributions made by the disabled community around the globe.
“#PurpleLightUp has captured the imagination of employees with disabilities and the organizations they work for, the world over,” she said.
But beyond imagination, #PurpleLightUp gives identity to a dream that Sarah Simcoe, the Design & Engagement Lead of the movement shares with millions. Simcoe is a Senior Associate Consultant at PurpleSpace and formerly a leader of the transformation, responsible business, and networkology at Fujitsu.
“Mine is of a world where everyone is fully included and celebrated, a world that embraces human potential,” Simcoe said. #PurpleLightUp powered by PurpleSpace is leading the way in helping that dream come true. This transformative movement brings together disabled employee networks, champions, allies, movers, shakers and visionaries in unifying the voices of the disabled community – the aim being to create a global community of change agents that celebrate purple talent and the contribution we make day in day out around the world, a community that like a pebble in the pond, creates a ripple effect of positive change.”
On December 3, #PurpleLightUp will be celebrated around the world, an opportunity to point to the many contributions disabled people across the world make in a variety of fields. The world knows well the mark that Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder, Stephen Hawking, Franklin Roosevelt, and Itzhak Perlman have made. But there are many, many more stories to tell, of disabled people who are quietly, yet powerfully impacting business, government and the arts and sciences.
But more than that, #PurpleLightUp should illuminate towering skyscrapers and simple storefronts from Wall Street to Main Street and houses from your front porch to the White House, it should be a time of self-examination and the development of a strategy to stop employment and economic discrimination against the disabled around the world.
Symbols pack power. But without action, they mean nothing, sound, and color signifying nothing. And as a global leader, it’s time for the United States to join with the rest of the world to seriously bring the disabled into the drive for inclusion. #PurpleLightUp can be a force for growth and for good.
Taking Alice Walker’s words, a step further, let’s do more than use and notice the color purple. It’s time to act, to light it up and make a difference in the world.
The late Robert Kennedy spoke of “taming the savageness of man,” and “making gentle the life of the world.”
He also said something that fits for us in the disability rights community and across the world, especially these days when society is ripe for action.
“The glory of justice and the majesty of law are created not just by the Constitution, nor by the courts, nor by the officers of the law, nor by the lawyers, but by the men and women who constitute our society, who are the protectors of the law as they are themselves protected by the law.”
As an international disability advocate and a business owner, that’s my mission. Make it yours. Through being agents of change, we can create the glory of justice and the majesty of the law. Such is fitting for the color purple.
We have many great organizations already committed to going purple, including Fujitsu Global, EY, Santander, Tesco, Isobel Creative, KPMG UK, PwC UK, Allegis Global Solutions (and many more!). A number of universities have also stepped up along with iconic buildings from around the world lighting up and shining purple from Leeds in the UK to Toronto in Canada – it truly is a global campaign; it’s really easy to be part of going Purple!
If you want to become engaged in the spirit of the day and organize your own local #purpleightUp event, here is a link to some creative ideas that can fit all budgets and organization sizes: https://www.purplespace.org/purple-light-up/go-purple
On December 3, let’s light it up. Join us on social media at #PurpleLightUp. Or visit Their website: https://www.purplespace.org/purple-light-up.