Fiona Jarvis

CEO , Blue Badge Style

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Style & disability should not be mutually exclusive

If you're disabled people assume your sense of style is no longer important e.g. disability equipment designers & manufacturers think we like 'grey' and purely functional design. They also assume we have no money to pay for premium products.

Smart, trendy places assume we don't want too visit so don't pay attention to disabled access & facilities. If they have them they are rarely shown on their websites

  • Oct 18 2013: I think Lejan's comments are spot on!

    I do not think there is an assumption that a disabled person's style is no longer important. I think style is just not as big a driver as economy of scale, in which cost prices being driven down by the benefits of mass production. In a design intended for a disabled person, the expectation is that customization would be needed in excess of normal tailoring for a fit that satisfies the customer. Consequently, the quantity of units divided by style choices, might not offer as much return on investment for the manufacturers.

    There is another expectation that utility and safety would be more important than fashion, from a perception that anything done to somehow give the disabled person some means of overcoming the disability was more important than how it looked. There is also some legal risk concerns, although more in device design than fashion. Perhaps the assumption you mention about an expectation that disabled people have no money (or less to spend on fashion) is a similar mindset, although I am not sure how this assumption bears out statistically. Market folks would know these numbers though, and make decisions based on them.

    As Fritzie mentioned, there is a disabilities act dictating requirements for public facilities here in the US. Many lawsuits have evolved this document to its present form. While there is no substitute for equality in providing services, facilities, and goods for the disabled, perhaps the lack of access in the trendy shops in places where laws do not exist to demand such things could be a business opportunity for some smart marketing group. Maybe webcam fly-through, regular showings of merchandise at facilities that do have such facilities by a cooperative group of trendy shops, or advanced on-line personalization services could help the situation. If a reasonable business model could be developed, there may also be government support of the program.
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      Oct 22 2013: Re economies of scale I believe some disabled people will pay a premium price for a high quality brand/design/fashion item e.g. a crutch or stick or wheelchair. These are common requirements and can be customised at the moment. What I am saying is customisation is not enough, good design with safety is possible and fashion customisation should give more alternatives than there are at the moment.

      I suspect lack of choice is nothing to do with scale rather than they can earn money with the status quo! But people will pay a premium otherwise how do quality brands survive and prosper.
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    Lejan .

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    Oct 14 2013: Hi Fiona,

    from my experience, this mutual exclusion of disability and style is mainly rooted in the given market 'mechanics' and thereby changes only slowly over time, if ever.

    Disabled people usually form small consumer groups which very often are not directly accessible by corporations due to health insurance programs in between, which themselves run their own 'mechanics'.

    In short : Reduction to the max to a wannabe commodity

    These dominating forces seem to be that strong, that even secondary markets struggle to bridge the given gaps.

    I know of just a view small companies who specialized on design-upgrades for disability equipment, and their customers are those who have this extra private budged to afford it.

    Designers and engineers are victims of this system and if they had their way, we wouldn't talk here on TED about this issue.

    Additionally to this field is, that function got to rule over design, as its main purpose is to ease disabilities to the highest degree possible.

    A stylish wheelchair, capable of winning a design award by its looks, would be a failure in purpose if it was tipping over easily.

    Incorporating both, purpose and design is no technical problem, its an accounting dictate in our given markets. Unfortunately!
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    Oct 10 2013: I can think of many ways to do this and I sure you will to, so I’ll just state the goal and let you have the fun in figuring the how.
    Picture an event in which artists and designers come together with people with mobility aid to glam their sticks, pimp their rides, to personalize their WALKers.

    Maybe find an Art & Design university to make it a yearly event.
  • Oct 22 2013: I agree with you that some disabled people will pay a premium price for a high quality brand/design/fashion item. I also agree that good design and safety are essential design elements for any item for any customer.

    My comment about economies of scale is relative to the manufacturing of items in large enough quantities to cover the cost of setting up the tooling and production runs for manufacture. The cost of this set up is fixed. The more identical units you can make form one set-up, the less the cost of each unit. The less each costs, the more profit you make when you fill an order. The per unit price is generally set by negotiations with the retail customer in advance.

    So now the marketing people have to estimate what the think they can sell in the way of different price levels in order to determine what is ordered. This is a bit of a risk, but usually it is based on past experiences with sales and predictions on how much more or less will be in demand.

    Ok, with high end items for a targeting a particular disability customer group, first you need to estimate how many people have the disability which might make them a potential customer. This number would usually be low. Then, from this group, you have to decide how many of them would be willing to pay the premium price. You may also need to figure how many at one size, and then style choices. So, if you have 1000 potential customers, 25% are willing to pay a premium price, 25% are medium (S,M,L,XL), and then you have 4 color options, your market share for an identical unit is 1000*.25*.25*.25= 15 units. So, their profit is based on being able to recoup costs on 15 similar units. The number gets small quickly.

    Mfg's are about profit, so such a small market share will probably not attract them, even if the price per unit is high. Mfg's supply retail shops, high or low end.

    A custom tailor, or similar equivalent for other items, might be more attracted to this market.
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    Oct 14 2013: I agree this is the case but in the UK and via our efforts at Blue Badge Style, we are aiming to talk to manufacturers, designers and consumers. In he Uk 'low end care needs' are now being pushed down to the end user rather than the NHS or local Authorities so the end user market is definitely growing and more demanding re 'style'.
  • Oct 8 2013: Okay, what would I know But i hope you can improvise and overcome.
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      Oct 8 2013: I will but it's not so easy for others!
      • Oct 9 2013: True but
        I am always curious More than that I wish you and everyone the best.
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      Oct 10 2013: I’m skilled in the art of the work around and have an artistic touch, be sadly many do not. (in fact it is frustrating how many people believe people with disability are “only” good for creating folk art, one has nothing to do with the other)

      I hope people will start dismissing to preconceived ideas of the disabled, and to be blunt improvising does get old.

      George, thank you for your curiosity and best wishes. it is so much easier to express and share desires with people have a open door to new views of this world.
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        Oct 10 2013: Don, you are right, of course, that creativity and physical disability have nothing to do with each other. Have you truly run into an assumption to the contrary?

        Are you familiar with this:
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          Oct 10 2013: This is a little tricky to describe, but I’ll give a try.
          My disability goes unnoticed most of the time, so somewhat uniquely I can see how people interactions with me chance when they learn of my disability. And I have to prove I’m still the same person and capable of doing my job, being sociable and charitable, with no desire to not be productive and be on charity. But when it comes to art, I have yet to see an assumption that I can’t do art.

          I think in the work place issue come from people being uncomfortable around the handicap, unfair costly on the health care system, or with unemployment the way it is I have gotten the feeling that the disable are taking away jobs form the able body.
          Not any different than what Chinese, Irish, women, and Mexican Americans have gone throw.
          Consider this “equal pay for equal work” excludes the handicap.

          So I wish people would accept disabled doctors, accountants, managers, etc. as easily as they do disabled artist.

          I’m sure I gave a good answer, I hope I did.

          P.S. thanks for the link, that is a interesting site.
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        Oct 10 2013: Okay, I misunderstood. I thought you had said above that people do not easily accept the disabled artist.

        I can see that you would have unique insight into people's response to disability in your workplaces.I cannot remember ever hearing anyone question a disabled person's ability to do a job the person was in. The only possible exceptions were a couple of people who were absent perhaps 50% of days (in which case the record of absences rather than the cause drew concerns about reliability) and the sharing of the need to speak loudly and clearly because of a colleague's hearing impairment. Otherwise never.
      • Oct 11 2013: Thank you I eventually learn more.
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    Oct 7 2013: unfortunately in the UK unless it's a brand new building or a government building accessibility is often not implemented due to a 'reasonable' clause in the law. What is or isn't reasonable has to go to court for jurisdiction.
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    Oct 7 2013: yes but when we've asked for creative/design help they don't believe there's a market!!
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    Oct 7 2013: I am Numb! Glad Fiona You brought up this topic. I see this as an opportunity for the creative people to design and construct. You have raised a Valid Concern.
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    Oct 7 2013: Fiona, I think you will love this TED-talk and product.

    here is the stylish version of the chair
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      Oct 7 2013: we did feature this on site but not the 'stylish' one so will add. THanks for your help.
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    Oct 7 2013: I have Style & a disability and I know where you are come from.
    I currently need no mobility aid, but I did need a cane for a time, and the medical aid equipment was downright ugly.
    I ended up getting a stylish adjustable Trekking-pole; the only other stylish option was to get a poorly functioning antique cane.
    So thank you for Blue Badge Style, it looks like a great company.

    I know many who decorate their mobility aid (cane, walker, wheelchair), but to me they have a folk art look and personally that is not my style.

    When it comes to a lot of smart, trendy places they assume all their customers live in NY or LA and have a models build. So saying they pay no attention to the disabled is no surprise.

    P.S. Fiona, I have MS also, since 2002. (Ampyra has tamed my MonSter, I highly suggest giving it a try)
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      Oct 7 2013: Thanks Don

      Glad you agree. Keep watching Blue badge Style's website we're hoping to expand to the US so we can start harrassing hospitality venues there!!

      Did you see the sticks/crutches on our site? They're the best of a bad bunch
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    Oct 7 2013: Here for your interest is the major law in the United States requiring that places of public accommodation, including restaurants, stores, theaters, public buildings, swimming pools and saunas, and so forth provide ready access to people with disabilities.
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      Oct 7 2013: Hi, We were aware of this and there is nothing in the UK that makes venues adhere to the law unless there's a class action!! Even so to refer to law all the time makes us feel like a legal compliance issue rather than a valued and wanted customer??!
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        Oct 7 2013: As you can see from the link, the law has been in place for twenty-five years, so by now everyone just uses the access that is convenient for them, I think, without any thought to the law that a quarter of a century ago made nearly everything accessible.

        It is a real shock here to come across a venue that is not accessible, which I noticed a few months ago in visiting an historic building without accommodation to a second floor ballroom.
  • Oct 6 2013: R E A L L Y

    What of Paul the Beatle's previous wife?
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      Oct 7 2013: yes really. Have you seen any stylish disability equipment?? Re Heather Mills she has style (of a kind) but she's one out of 11.2m in the UK. We do exist but the hospitality & equipment market have not caught up with us so we have to improvise or stay at home!!
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