EDITOR’S VIEW: Style is a route to success in this fast-moving market

Many disabled consumers perceive mobility equipment to be ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘not fit for purpose’, and want aids which are more stylish. Those were the findings that recently came out of research undertaken by Blue Badge Style, which claims that 75% of people would in fact pay a premium for stylish, well-designed mobility equipment.

The study, which examined the importance of style in mobility products, argues that current equipment is often over-specified and that there is no ‘consideration of style’ in the decision-making process of OTs.

It suggests that, consequently, ‘cool designers’ cannot get their products made as they are not recognised as suitable equipment providers. Blue Badge Style’s research also found that a discrepancy in prices means that disability consumers feel “ripped off”. Furthermore, they often feel that shopping is like a “military operation and there is no ‘buzz’ in going out to buy something new”.

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The group says it has gathered feedback from consumers who have had bad experiences shopping for mobility aids, with one showroom manager alleged to have said to a customer recently: “Madam, in my experience people in wheelchairs prefer not to be noticed.”

The findings of the report are all things to consider as the industry looks to meet the needs of a customer base that increasingly holds style in the same regard as functionality. Blue Bade Style noted that its recent visit to the New Old Exhibition at the Design Museum illustrated that disability equipment is improving, and not just by adding ‘bling’ or vivid colours to old equipment. Folding wheelchair wheels, a robot dog that detects if a person is incapacitated and a walker/trolley based on a self-propelled scooter were just some of the things that stood out.

There is clearly money in creating equipment with style. As the industry evolves, it will be fascinating to see which brands rise to the challenge.

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