Many disabled consumers perceived mobility equipment to be ‘old fashioned’ and ‘not fit for purpose’, and want aids which are more stylish.
Those are the findings of research by Blue Badge Style, which claims 75% of people would in fact pay a premium for stylish, well designed mobility equipment.
The research, which looks at 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 process of OTs.
It says 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 meant that disability consumers felt “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”.
The group says it has had 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”.
But Lucy Geer from Blue Badge Style says that disability equipment is improving, and not just by adding ‘bling’ or vivid colours to old equipment.
“As designers and the population at large are aging better designs are being developed. This was highlighted at the recent New Old Exhibition at The Design Centre, where there were folding wheelchair wheels, a robot dog that detected if you were incapacitated and a walker/trolley that was based on a self-propelled scooter, amongst other things.
“The shopping experience is also changing where both designed2enable and our own ADDITI+ON SHOP are aiming to create a more enjoyable, inclusive and modern experience, at least when you buy online. We will also be opening a ‘pop-up’ shop in London soon.
“With the growth of interest in Paralympic Sports the development of wheelchairs has improved and this has filtered down to the mainstream where manufacturers are now realising that there’s money in creating equipment with style.”