Designers bring style to aids for disabled

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The Independent Online
WHEELCHAIRS, walking sticks and Zimmer frames should be trendier and better designed so disabled people are proud to be seen with them, a design conference was told yesterday, writes Rosa Prince.

Disabled people complain that because equipment is usually provided by the NHS or social services, it is often clinical, ugly and unwieldy. Many are ashamed to be seen with it.

Rather than being treated as a single group, disabled people say they should be targeted as consumers with different needs, opinions and lifestyles.

To help manufacturers meet the challenge of providing equipment for such a disparate group, a CD-ROM called Design Aid was launched yesterday detailing the interests and aspirations of disabled people.

Compiled by Design for Ability at Central St Martin's College in London, the CD-ROM is based on interviews with 600 disabled people and will be used by designers and manufacturers who want to know more about their lives.

To show the type of equipment which could be made using the CD-ROM, the design consultants Tangerine have produced the Active Walking Frame - lightweight, foldaway and partly made of wood. Researchers say disabled people were proud to be seen with it, and it is as cheap to produce as an NHS Zimmer frame.