Creating disability products presents a unique set of challenges, not least of which is making sure that the products designed make the target customer’s life easier while maintaining their dignity. The advancement of education, science and technology has meant that people with special requirements can keep their independence. Disability aids generally fall into two categories; mechanical and electronic.
Mechanical Disability Products
These products are often very simple, serving a specific purpose. The prime example is the Helping Hand – a simple extending grabber which allows people in wheelchairs to reach and carefully move items around their home and work. There couldn’t be a simpler concept – squeeze the trigger and two prongs move together – but there are quite specific design points to consider in order to make sure the end users’ needs are fully satisfied. Materials used, resistance in the mechanism, and extra features like extendability all need considering as they could mean the difference between a product dominating the target market, or making a financial loss.
Electronic disability aids can range from the relatively simple – a panic button in wardened accommodation, for instance – to the incredibly complex, such as a dialysis machine or similar life-saving medical equipment, which can cost millions. All of them are designed with the dignity of the user in mind. Medical equipment is created to serve its purpose in as comfortable and unobtrusive a way as possible, even when the functions they serve are complex.
Unless disability aids take care to maintain the dignity of its target audience, the chances of its success on today’s saturated marketplace are extremely low. When designing these products it can be easy to become blinkered by simply solving the problem in the design brief, but it’s important to take a step back and consider the target audience as a person – both morally and commercially.