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Frontiers in Multicultural Marketing: The Disabilities Market - page 5 / 17





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c. (Answer if this person is 16 YEARS OLD OR OVER.) Going outside the home alone to shop or visit a doctor’s office?

d. (Answer if this person is 16 YEARS OLD OR OVER.) Working at a job or business?

Wilkins (2003), in studying the disabilities market in Australia, used 17 screening questions to determine whether or not someone had a disability, for example: “Partial or total loss of sight that is not corrected by lenses.”  To have a disability, the problem has to last for a period of 6 months or longer.  

Currently, about 20% of American adults have a disability.  The major causes of disability are arthritis / rheumatism; back and spine problems; heart trouble and atherosclerosis; lung / respiratory problems; and deafness / hearing problems (Center of Disease Control, 2001).

Disabilities and New Product Development

Countries that have repressed women have abysmal growth rates (Timmer and McClelland, 2004).  This is not at all surprising given that they do not have access to the brains and abilities of 50% of the population.  Florida (2002) asserts that the most creative cities are those that are tolerant, diverse, and open to creativity.  Interestingly, the Gay Index for a region (which measures openness to gays) correlates very strongly with The Creativity Index (which measures the creative capabilities of a region).  One suspects that the same may be true of regions (and companies) that are receptive to the disabled. Regions (and companies) that are open and sensitive to others are probably more creative.  Certainly, firms that wish to succeed do not have the luxury of ignoring 20% to 25% of the population -- the disabled.  True corporate diversity means that disabled individuals, as well as women and minorities, all have a “place at the table.” There is considerable evidence relating diversity and growth (Friedman and Amoo, 2002).  Companies that want access to the minds of as much as 25% of the population should hire the disabled and use them to come up with ideas for new products as well as making existing and new products disabled-friendly.  Many marketers are discovering that products designed for those with disabilities are often just as helpful to everyone else.  These include products such as over-the-bed- tables, can openers, orthopedic pillows, book holders, soft-grip pens, magnifying visors, voice recognition software, text readers, etc.

Individuals with disabilities could be very beneficial in new product development (Friedman, Lopez-Pumarejo, and Friedman, 2006).  Most non-disabled consumers are unaware of the problems that a person with a cane or wheelchair might face.  The best way to find out is to ask.  Take the story of Tracy Saks.  She was divorced for a number of years and realized that there was nothing online for disabled singles.  Ms. Saks has multiple sclerosis so it was difficult for her to meet someone.   She developed an online niche dating website (www.specialsinglesonline.com) in 2004 for this market (Rowland, 2005).   Dillon Park, the first campground/park that complies fully with the Americans with Disabilities Act was designed by Don White, an accessibility engineer, who suffered an injury

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