Trendy Disability Products: An Untapped Market

NEW YORK—Conventional wisdom tells us that people with disabilities do not have considerable spending power. People who rely on Social Security disability benefits are likely to have a meager income. Hence, companies that invest in products for the disabled might accept nominal returns in profit. Yet according to trends from the last few years, the disabilities market may be an untapped and promising one.

Liz Jackson, a buoyant woman of 33, saved up her money to purchase a $129 walnut hardwood cane with a turquoise silicon grip.

Three years ago, Jackson was diagnosed with idiopathic neuropathy, a nerve disorder that made walking difficult. She found herself suddenly needing a cane.

Jackson saw her condition less as a disability and more as a new beginning. “I had a new range of accessories that I can wear to craft my identity,” she said.

Since style had always been salient to Jackson’s identity, it was important for her to use a well-designed cane that gave off a “cool” vibe rather than an “infirm” one.

One of the nifty and comfortable canes that Jackson purchased was from a start-up called Top & Derby. The company designs canes with an upward-turned silicon grip that provides extra comfort and allows one to rest the cane against a wall without it slipping. The startup also coats its canes with a satin finish.

In one month, Top & Derby received $21,945 worth of funding on crowdsource fundraiser site Indiegogo, revealing a demand for high quality and aesthetically-pleasing products for people with disabilities.

Top & Derby is not the only company that saw a demand and acted on it.

In July, Nike released a shoe for athletes with disabilities called”Flyease,” which has zippers in lieu of traditional shoe laces.

“There’s always been specialized clothing manufactured for people with disabilities that’s been for function not fashion,” said Shelly DeButts, communications director of non-profit United Cerebral Palsy. “But that’s just not good enough anymore.”

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