eBay sponsors Purple Tuesday: Inaccessible websites cost businesses £412m during pandemic

Press Release

  • UK businesses lost out on almost £412 million during the pandemic* because their websites are inaccessible to disabled people
  • More than one in three disabled people had difficulties using websites during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Companies urged to review disabled customer experience as eBay announces new commitments on Purple Tuesday

UK businesses lost out on almost £412 million during the pandemic* because their websites are inaccessible to disabled people, according to new research** released by Purple, which brings disabled people and businesses together to improve the customer experience of disabled people.


The research found that more than one in three disabled people had difficulties using websites during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, at a time when the economy increasingly relied on online sales and many disabled people were asked to shield. 15% had problems reading websites and 18% simply gave up using a site. More than half (54%) of those who had difficulties did not then spend money they had planned to, leaving millions in the pockets of disabled people instead of in the economy.


Global ecommerce platform eBay – the world’s largest auction site – is today sharing their ongoing efforts to improve the experiences of disabled buyers and sellers on their site and native apps. eBay strives to ensure:

  • Keyboard-only access throughout the site to help people who prefer not to, or can’t, use a mouse. For instance, people with an injury or a motor impairment.
  • Alternative text for icons and images, which provide a textual description of images for people with sight loss.
  • Clearly labelled form elements to ensure they’re easily understood for those cognitive disabilities and those using assistive technology such as a screen reader.
  • Adequate colour contrast across the site and apps for people with colour deficiencies or low-vision.
  • Issuing advice to eBay’s 300,000 small business sellers to avoid small font sizes, use plain but descriptive language, avoid light colours in text and keep animations simple or ditch them altogether.


eBay is also calling on its sellers to make important changes to how they list and describe their items, which will make them more accessible to a wider audience. Commenting on the organisation’s decision to sponsor, Eve Williams, CMO of eBay UK, said:


“Purple Tuesday is important to eBay because our purpose as a business is to create economic opportunity for all, and accessibility is a fundamental pillar of that. We’ve made great progress over the last 10 years or so, and through partnering with Purple we’re committing to continually adapt and evolve our site as we progress on this journey with them.


“We know that small changes can make a world of difference to people with a disability who use our platform, and we would encourage any retailers with an online presence especially to do the same.”


It wasn’t just websites that caused frustration during the pandemic – 40% of disabled people had difficulties interacting with organisations in person. Almost one in five (19%) had problems with communication and the same proportion had problems with physical accessibility. And while most disabled people agreed with measures such as masks and social distancing, these did make life more difficult for 40%.


The NHS is most frequently mentioned when it comes to the best organisations for accessibility of services, and overall, the supermarket sector comes top. However, more than half (54%) of disabled people still feel organisations could do more to improve the experiences of disabled customers, with the most common unmet needs being around physical access and support, such as lack of wheelchair ramps, narrow aisles and staff unavailable to help reach high shelves or carry shopping to the car.  


Purple Tuesday is a change programme for organisations of all sizes from all sectors to get involved in, with the common goal of improving the customer experience for disabled people 365 days a year. More than 5,000 organisations have so far used Purple Tuesday 2021 as an opportunity to make practical commitments to improve the disabled customer experience.


Today Purple is calling on even more organisations to urgently review their services for disabled customers, to help them take advantage of the £274 billion Purple Pound – the combined spending power of disabled people and their families.


Mike Adams OBE, Founder and Creator of Purple Tuesday, said:

“Like everyone else, businesses had to adapt during the pandemic. There were countless examples of companies completely overhauling their offer almost overnight to stay successful. We therefore know it can be done, and now there are no excuses not to make changes to meet the needs of disabled people. Often the adjustments required are small and the financial rewards great, particularly as the benefits can usually be felt by all customers.


“Purple Tuesday this year, coming as it does in the wake of a pandemic and at a pivotal moment in the Climate Emergency, is about instilling a similar sense of urgency and making it unacceptable for those serious about economic recovery to ignore disabled people in 2021.” 


Dale Rawlins, General Manager at eBay business Sofab Sports, a Community Interest Company specialising in sportswear which employs young adults with disabilities, knows how important it is to have an accessible website:


“At Sofab Sports, our aim is to help our employees with physical and learning difficulties build their confidence and self-esteem, with a view to help them secure more employment opportunities in the future. So, when it comes to using a website, the most important thing for them is simplicity, and eBay has set the benchmark.


“We have three eBay stores, so it’s essential when switching between each that the website is clearly labelled, without overly complicated text or images. That’s exactly what eBay does. It’s accessible and clear, meaning it’s easy to log in and out when checking warehouse stock. But of course, it’s not only about our staff, it’s about the customers who may also have difficulties too. This Purple Tuesday, I hope other websites recognise the importance of inclusivity and the impact of the ‘Purple pound’, and follow eBay’s lead to improve the online experience of disabled people.”




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*Based on 13,084,000 disabled UK adults 16+ (ONS Population Estimates: 14.1m disabled people minus 1,016 disabled children under 16). Average amount unspent online due to inaccessible websites: £31.46 per person. Total unspent online: £411,622,640

**TFL Panel research carried out in January 2021 (representative sample of 836 people identifying as disabled) and August 20201 (representative sample of 1001 adults identifying as disabled).


Notes to Editors


About Purple Tuesday  

Purple Tuesday 2021 is an international call to action focused on changing the customer experience for disabled people. It calls on organisations from all sectors and sizes, to take decisive practical actions to meet the needs of disabled customers. Purple Tuesday is part of Purple’s vision for organisations to see disability as an opportunity – both in terms of existing and potential employees and customers – and to be part of addressing the inequality that exists for disabled people through increasing the accessibility of everything they do.