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Designs on life changes

  • Angela May

Design matters. It’s official!

Asana Image REV3We all know that for years, there has been a prevailing attitude that just because a product is for a disabled person, it needs to be purely functional. Form doesn’t matter. A new report for the Housing Learning & Improvement Network is the latest vehicle to reiterate that actually, design DOES matter.

It is a fact we have always acknowledged in our development of toilet technology for people with limitations. Some of our partners similarly recognise it. The report highlights that poor aesthetics provide a barrier to people’s acceptance of the aid or adaptation: ‘visual appearance was a reminder of the stigma of ageing or a sign of vulnerability’, to quote the report. That has a negative impact on a person’s psychological wellbeing.

A person’s mental wellbeing is fundamental to their ability to cope with changes to their life, to accept that they need to use aids to be as independent as possible. But it is an intangible, how do you quantify that? How do you put a price on that feeling of empowerment?

To put it simply, how would you put a price on the impact on their mental health of enabling someone to be able to go to the toilet in their own, without having to rely on a carer or family member to help them? The report cites one participant as saying an adaptation ‘made a new person of me’; another said ‘it means independence. I don’t have to ask for help. If you can manage yourself, that’s half the battle.’

We should all, as far as possible, endeavour to include form as well as function into adaptations. ‘We’ includes manufacturers, Occupational therapists, grants officers, contractors- everyone involved in delivering a successful adaptation. If it looks attractive, aspirational, there is increased likelihood that the recipient will use it more readily, so it will deliver value. They will be proud to have it in their home, not embarrassed. And the chances are, there is little price differential between the option, but the differential to someone’s wellbeing is huge.

Closomat Limited, Building 1, Brooklands Place, Brooklands Road, Sale Cheshire, M33 3SD