Let’s face it, life can be tough – and for people with special needs, it can be even tougher. That’s why it’s so great to see brands coming up with amazing products to make life a little easier for people with disabilities. Not only can this kind of inclusion make a real difference in people’s lives, it can make a real difference to business’s bottom lines too.
Global statistics are hard to come by, but for some context to the size of the market, in the US it’s estimated that 26% of adults live with ‘some type of disability’, and in the UK the ‘purple pound’ is currently estimated to be worth a whopping £274 billion.
We thought we’d check out some of the big brands embracing inclusive design in a big way.
Last week, Nike made headlines with the release of its newest easy-entry shoe, the Go FlyEase. It’s the latest iteration in Nike’s FlyEase range, which originally stemmed from a letter that Matthew Walzer, a teen with cerebral palsy, sent to Nike back in 2012. In his letter, Matthew asked Nike if they would “consider being the forerunner in producing athletic shoes that will make the difference in the quality of so many lives”.
Matthew’s letter explained that, although he could dress himself without assistance, he couldn’t tie his own shoelaces. Nike designer Tobie Hatfield was up for the challenge, and began developing prototypes that could make life easier for Matthew – and millions of others. Since then, Nike has mass-produced a huge number of easy-entry shoes, with clever accessibility options like step-in, zip-up and pull-tight – no lace tying required.
Historically, furniture for people with disabilities has been very medicalised, very expensive, and, to put it bluntly, very ugly. But an Israeli copywriter had an idea which could change that forever.
Working on the IKEA account for McCann in Tel Aviv, Eldar Yusupov imagined a suite of add-ons for existing IKEA products that would make them much easier to use for people with disabilities. And so IKEA’s ThisAbles was born, but not without some hiccups along the way.
As explained in the ThisAbles case study (which is highly worth a watch), the first presentation of the idea to IKEA made ThisAbles look like a specialist range that lacked flexibility. And since people with disabilities all have unique challenges, IKEA couldn’t originally see the specialist range being scalable enough to have enough mass appeal to be profitable.
But when the idea was reframed as add-ons that could be 3D-printed in store or at home, the team at IKEA saw how infinitely flexible the ThisAbles range could become, and the idea got the green light.
When it comes to high-profile fashion labels embracing inclusive design, Tommy Hilfiger was fairly early to the party. Whether it’s details like magnetic buttons, one-handed-zips, adjustable hems or bungee-cord closures, the iconic American brand has a dedicated range of inclusive options – Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive. Not only do the garments make getting dressed easier, they look just as stylish as anything else in the Tommy Hilfiger range, allowing people with disabilities to express their individuality without compromise.
To make video games more accessible to people with disabilities, Microsoft has created the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines, and is inviting games developers to have their Xbox and PC games road-tested by players with disabilities. Microsoft will then compile the feedback and share it with the developer to help drive new ideas on how to make their games better than ever.
Since there are nearly 46 million disabled gamers in the US alone, developers who choose to take part are likely to see their profits level up in no time.