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Frontiers in Multicultural Marketing: The Disabilities Market - page 7 / 17

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Communication Aids: Augmentative communication/speech aids, alarm systems, telephone communication aids, assistive listening devices, visual/reading aids.

Seating and Positioning Aids: Modifications to wheelchairs and other seating that give greater stability to the body and reduction of pressure to the skin, e.g., modular seating, seat lifts and wheelchair cushions.

Transportation Aids: Aids that give independence in personal transportation, such as hand-controls, car-top carriers, custom cars and vans, and child restraint systems.

There is a great need for AT devices; a survey by Carlson et al. (2001) showed that 16.6 million disabled Americans used AT devices such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, and equipment to help them get out of bed, dress, eat, use the toilet, shower, and/or get out of the house.  In fact, the most commonly used AT devices are canes, walkers, and wheelchairs.  Clearly, the market for such devices is huge. The same study indicated that 14 million disabled Americans lived in homes that were modified in some way to assist them.  There are many opportunities for companies making AT devices.  Custom Automation Technologies (http://www.customautomationtech.com/at.htm) is a custom installation company that provides consumers with home automation products.   A number of consumers like the idea of a high-tech home where one can control every appliance, light, audio device, and security device from one touch screen.  Many of their products are also ideal for those who are disabled.  Indeed, the company website claims that they can make a home that is disability-friendly, i.e., one in which someone with a disability can use a touch screen to do many tasks from one touch screen.   As noted above, products developed to help those with disabilities will often be of value to those without disabilities.  Companies that create products for the disabled market will develop expertise that will help them with other markets. Arthritis/rheumatism is the major cause of disability; many people, however, have problems with arthritis and are not disabled.  Products made for the disabled should also be popular with the non-disabled who are in the early stages of the disease.  For example, people with severe arthritis have a great deal of difficulty opening various types of jars and containers.  According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 20 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis so we are not talking about a tiny market.  By the year 2030, 20% of Americans will be older than 65; this means that 70 million Americans will be at risk for osteoarthritis, a disease that is common with the elderly (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 2002).  Folgers introduced a canister for its coffee that won an ease-of-use commendation by the Arthritis Foundation.  This canister is not only for disabled people but anyone who finds it difficult to open a traditional coffee jar or container. Gardening tools and scissors that are made so that the disabled can use them may also be of interest to people who have mild cases of arthritis in their hands.  Left-handed people are not disabled, but still prefer products that are leftie-friendly.   There are a number of websites selling products for them.

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