designed2enable: Assistive Products With Style

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One of the first sites I ever discovered when I was searching for good-looking disability products was designed2enable. I don’t remember quite how I came across it, but I remember being really excited when I clicked through and saw a curation of items that were actually…attractive. Something, if you’ve read my blog or followed me on Instagram, is one of the things I’m now most interested in. So, I’m delighted that for this week’s post, I had the opportunity to interview the lovely Katherine Pyne, co-founder of designed2enable. We talk about her business, the wider assistive product market, and how she makes it work as a disabled entrepreneur. I learned a lot, and I hope you enjoy it! Katherine also kindly loaned me some products from their curation that can make life easier/more comfortable/more glam for disabled people, including a heating pad blanket, a beautiful blue badge case, and more. I’ll be doing individual mini reviews of these products over on my Instagram Stories) over the next few weeks (they’ll also be saved in a highlight on my profile). What is designed2enable? designed2enable is an online retailer that specialise in stylish and functional products for daily living. The business is the brainchild of husband and wife team, Katherine & John Pyne. The company ethos is to enable equality through design by selecting products that customers will be happy to use and to have in their home – products of style and interest. Why did you decide to start your own business? The idea for the business came several years before we started it. I had had a spinal injury at the age of 30 and once we had got our lives back on track, we had our daughter. She grew up, and as I had more time, we decided that it would be good to start our own business and work from home. The idea of a stylish mobility store had been in the back of our minds for some time. It was born from our personal frustration with the lack of stylish bathroom grab rails and, wheelchair gloves for women that weren’t cycling gloves or masculine black gloves. And it stemmed from there! Can you walk us through the types of products that you offer? Our product range includes many award-winning products. We source products that range in price from both high-end and for the more budget-conscious, so that there is something for everyone. We also have products that are not found in other mobility shops which sets us apart. For example in our bathroom range, the Decor Walther and the Ever Life Design range are very different, expensive – yes, but they have a great impact and are beautifully designed. Our range includes walking aids, products for the house and home, exercise devices and mobility accessories – anything really that makes life a little easier, and hopefully more joyful, for our customers. How do you feel that the market for functional products for disabled people has changed over the years? Do you feel as though things are better, or are there still challenges towards making them more mainstream? Our initial research for products was slightly depressing, we found few well-designed products to launch our business on, so we had to bide our time, that was around 7 years ago. We searched again, a year or so later and the situation had improved, and we could see a change in the thinking behind the design of mobility products. The designers were starting to recognise the need to improve the aesthetics of their product design. Being part of the EU has been helpful, the Scandinavian countries are leaders in modern contemporary design and many of our products are designed and sourced from there. Things are improving, and it is an exciting time for the disability industry. Design is at the forefront of the movement which, in turn, encourages the manufacturers to up their game. The main challenge is in keeping prices affordable – disability can be an expensive business and many customers have limited funds, so we try to ensure that our store has something for everyone.  Can you talk a bit more about the challenges of finding affordable products? It is a difficult one but I think there are several factors. The first being that demand and subsequent production of mobility aids may not be as high as other general/universal products and therefore the unit cost of manufacture is higher. However, some of the cheaper products on the market, such as the white plastic bathroom aids, have been designed for function only, using standard/affordable materials and as these are purchased by the general public and by the NHS for hospitals, care homes and care in the community, the demand is reasonably high, which then brings the manufacturing cost down. And many of these items are probably produced in China… For the more aesthetic looking mobility aids, more focus (and therefore cost) is spent on the design, the materials used will be of higher grade and the demand will be less as they will not fit the NHS budget. Therefore the end consumer cost will be more. We find that many of our products come from the Scandinavian countries who have the reputation for great design but their cost of living is quite high which will reflect on the products that they produce and manufacture. What kinds of products would you like to be able to sell but haven’t been able to source – or what kind of products are your customers looking for? We often get enquires for shopping trolleys but there is not a great selection available and for some reason, there is such a price war on other online shops (no names mentioned!) that we are unable to compete. But we do feel that there is a gap in the market here for a sturdy and stylish shopping trolley that will give the user some support with their mobility, with a built-in seat. We do have the Rollz Flex shopping trolley which is a […]

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