Stereotypes. In this day and age, how do we still put up with people using them without a second thought?
It has, quite honestly, absolutely astounded me that there is little, if no, resources geared for young(er) people with mobility problems and disability.
Since this has started, I have been constantly disappointed in regards to the availability of products suitable for a young(er) person’s life and lifestyle, and almost made to feel as if I should not exist, being a young(ish) adult in her 30s requiring help with my mobility and my ASD. Instead of being catered for – or at least being accepted – I have felt that I “shouldn’t be allowed” to be the way I am.
People in their 30s should be fit and healthy, in the prime of life… Except… Some are not.
I have noticed there is awareness of children requiring assistance – especially with ASD. After the age of 18 I think people and professionals think it magically disappears. I’m fairly certain that they also imagine that no one has mobility issues until they reach the age of 60.
I have been requiring to shop for mobility aids, for disability-friendly products, for wheelchairs and a stair lift. Not one of them has any product, marketing, nor packaging that is actually realistically aimed for young(er) people who want to be acknowledged, with interesting, colourful, playful, and personality-filled products. In fact, older people would probably appreciate such things too… but young(er) people are less likely to accept such a thing.
I have my wheelchair and two walking aids. They were boring, but now they’re covered in stickers – the easiest thing I could use to give them some personality. The new stair lift will be given similar treatment, although I managed to find a company that did one that looked more like it belonged in a pretty, minimalist loft apartment or office, rather than a boring and institutionalised nursing home. It’s also well-made and expertly engineered – I was quite impressed by the sample of rail they showed… made with British steel and made with beautiful precision, and also felt beautiful in its elegantly designed simplicity and thick, cold sturdiness.
The only fly in the ointment was that all the marketing – from the website to the brochure and the DVD was geared towards the older generation – around the late-50s was the youngest that appeared in any of them. It makes me feel like I am… not welcome… to use their products. They’re not for me, or anyone who isn’t “older”. I’m in my 30s… media and marketing makes no room for me in this world – I should be young, healthy, be out running and driving cars and playing with children. I should not be struggling to stand and walk, unable to get up and down the stairs.
Except I am. And many, many others do to. Young people get ill, contract diseases, are diagnosed with conditions, are in accidents – and then subsequently require mobility and disability aids. Companies and manufacturers should have more innovative and interesting products that are as decorative as they are functional – like the Blue Badge Company. Although they, like the others, can fall into the “old is disabled” stereotype when it comes to using featured models (although they use almost no people at all when photographing their products), what they do achieve is having an interesting product range that ranges from beautiful to fun. If only other people realised they should do the same thing…
These products offer the option of independence, of living life to the best of your ability, to overcoming whatever difficulties you have. All the things a younger(er) person requires if they have any kind of restrictive condition – if anyone does need a more independent life, it’s someone that’s barely lived long enough to really have a full one yet, and in some cases, been struck down and is only accustomed to being fully-independent.
I personally expected (naively) to have relevant things that I needed designed to be aimed and marketed towards people other than those over 60. I’m rather put-out that all packaging and marketing features only older people, and that I have to cover everything in nerdy stickers to make them interesting and fun. I’m annoyed that no young(er) people appear on any product to do with mobility and disability, with no advertising or marketing designed for young(er) people.
It’s quite frankly about time this was rectified too. In this day and age of understanding, equality, and levelling the playing field of life to all, this should be a focus of companies who design, create, and sell these products designed to assist with more intendant living. Taking the “dis” of of disabled.
They should be also focusing marking and products for young(er) people. There are (unfortunately, perhaps) many out there – many who would love the opportunity to select a wheelchair blanket with a nice 20-something person appearing on the packaging, or someone in their 30s using a dressing apparatus, or walking stick.
But until they do, I shall have to continue covering everything in nerdy stickers. I hope Amazon continue to have a never-ending supply…!
Of course, we all know why this really doesn’t happen – our (pathetic) sensibilities mean we simply can’t bare the thought of being actually faced – bombarded and horrified – with the image of young and disabled people on advertisements and packaging.
Who could possibly cope with the awful images of a young and pretty 25 year old woman in a wheelchair, or with a prosthetic, or perhaps the crippling arthritis she has to endure? Who can possibly cope with seeing an 18 year old young man with a prosthetic leg, or permanent limp use a cane? How on earth could anyone endure having the sensibilities tormented by facing the reality someone in their 30s could have MS or Parkinson’s, seeing an advertisement of them using a bathing aid or transfer board?
The fact is our naive little society would like to continue the myth that only old people get frail. Or disabled. Or chronically ill. They do not want to be faced with the daily reality that young(er) people require these things as well – and would like to be included in such things. Not to be ostracised, or brushed under the carpet. It should be normalised that this is how things are, and marketing should a big part of that.
We buy them, why can’t we be a part of the inspiration behind creating and marking them? Why does it all have to institutionalised and boring? Everything is plain, or grey, or looks like it belongs in a community hospital or nursing home… not the real home of a 30-something nerd who loves fun geeky things, computers, games, horses, and Harley Quinn.
Get a stairlift company to think outside the box and make it look like the Batmobile, or entirely in bright baby pink with fluff. Or create decals and covers especially designed for the chair. Walking and dressing aids should be able to be dressed up and be personalised. Wheelchairs should have “skins” made for the frames (those pretty, specially-designed stickers, like you can have for phones and games consoles), so you can customise your wheels to whatever you please with appropriate products that are made to fit. Do the obvious and put mermaids, fish, bubbles, beautiful sea and beach designs on bathing products.
We decorate and customise all of our things these days. It’s what we (the young[er]) people do. We want things to be just for us. Individual. To our taste and to accent out personalities. I’m a Goth and I love the skulls Blue Badge cover from Blue Badge Company (although it’s actually a “pirates” theme for children – and entirely ineffectively marketed – because I love it… as would other skull-loving Goths I’m sure). It makes me proud to display my badge because it absolutely suits me.
You know what we don’t want? Your pity. Your fear. Your disrespect. We require respect and acknowledgement of who we are, not what we are. We might have difficulties and restrictions, but it’s attitudes that disable someone. We are young. We are in need of these things. We deserve respect and acknowledgement as consumers, as customers, as people who pay out for these things. Ergo, we should be able to expect the full monty… to be a part of it, and thusly be a part of the design, the marketing, the packaging… and not be put in a corner and ignored.
And how is it that our society can be so afraid of seeing the truth… and that young(er) people are not always so physically perfect…? We are not always those pristine, toned, healthy, slim, smiling creatures in jogging or car or Bodyform adverts. Sometimes we require Tena and can’t walk. Sometimes we have difficulty managing in the bathroom and with dressing ourselves. Sometimes it would be nice to see someone else just like you, in the same position, in an advert or on packaging relevant to you and what you need to buy.
Personally, I am always especially put off when forced to be confronted by old(er) people in these things, not because I’m afraid of getting or being old, it’s because the marketing and picture given to me is so entirely irrelevant, it’s a 180 from being relevant at all. That is not me. I’m in my 30s and a Geeky Goth… not 78 with a hip replacement (although if the person was 28 with a hip replacement, I could identify with that).
I want to see something relevant in these marketing options… and I absolutely do not care if someone feels “uncomfortable” in seeing, and being reminded of, young(er) people with restrictive difficulties. Tough. I have to live with it – I do not understand why it should affect some stranger walking past a product with such a picture on the front.
Frankly, it’s about time this society stopped being afraid of “disability” and truly embraced it as something “normal” … because to so many of us, that’s what it is and had to become. We shouldn’t be different – we should be the same, but in our own unique way.
And it’s about time everyone else realised that too.
… Especially you, Marketing and PR guys for mobility and disability products….