Functionality included: accessories for people with disabilities
Functionality included: accessories for people with disabilities
Sometimes an outfit is just an outfit – perhaps it’s not terribly exciting or unique, but it does the job. And there is nothing wrong with that because most of us don't want to stand out all the time. But then again, expressing your individuality from time to time never hurt anyone. How do you showcase your personal style? With the right accessories, of course:a scarf, a belt, or a matching bag.REHACARE.com took a closer look at companies that accommodate the specific needs of people with disabilities.
Securely attached to the auxiliary aid, always within reach, and they offer more space than meets the eye: Quokka Bags.
Sometimes it is a chance encounter that can change things in a big way – at other times, it’s something small that can make all the difference in the world to people with disabilities. Things happen when "great things are done by a series of small things brought together", as Vincent Van Gogh so aptly said. Enter Dieter Laven and Rolling Pants. The wheelchair user found out about the fashion label through a famous tailor. By now, he is not only one of the faces of the brand, but he is also actively involved in its design process. Besides trousers, Rolling Pants also offers accessories such as backpacks. The practical design of the backpack’s organizer inset is a key component. The label from Northern Germany has adapted its product portfolio to meet the needs of wheelchair users.
How a chance encounter and a trade fair visit turned into a business idea
A chance meeting is also the reason Quokka was born. Remco Kemper is from the Netherlands and knows a thing or two about product and business development. Back in 2010, the sister of a good friend was forced to use a wheelchair and bemoaned that there are no bags specifically made for wheelchair users. Several conversations and a visit to the REHACARE trade fair later, Quokka was born. "It did not take long for me to say yes, since I felt that we could make a difference with Quokka," Kemper remembers. The product developer looked to Rixen&Kaul for some extra help. The latter is known for its wide variety of bicycle accessories. Several adjustments had to made (a wheelchair is not a bicycle, after all), especially as it pertained to adapters to attach the accessories to the wheelchairs. Thanks to the KLICKfix adapter, Quokka bags and other accessories such as smartphone cases or cupholders can now be securely attached to wheelchairs and rollators. "Together with R&K we further developed the adapter until we were all happy with it. That did take a while; it is not easy to make something simple that works really well. R&K did a great job," the company founder explains. But all the hard work paid off in the end. By now, the company also has a second type of adapter on the market.
Kemper also collaborated with O4 Wheelchairs. Coffee junkies, rejoice! A a new 2-cup drink carrier called Coffee2Roll is now available to hold your favorite beverage. The company also plans the international launch of its Square Bag in May. It will feature a wider opening for even easier access.
Orange inside, so you can see the contents better. Unobtrusive from the outside – the Quokka Bags are not eye-catchers in the sense, but functional.
Given that he put this much work into something as small as an adapter, the bags must surely be super unique and special. Not necessarily, says Kemper. Quokka actually highlights a different aspect: "Since our clients are all different, we have opted for a neutral style, that blends in well with the wheelchair. The visual attractiveness lies in de overall finish of our product, the use of high-quality materials and a lot of attention to detail. We aim more for sophistication than for a fashionable look." Thanks to the adapter, the bags are not only firmly attached to the wheelchair but can also be positioned where users need them for quick and independent access. Easy to reach zipper tabs with optional thumb loops are another feature that facilitates easy entry. The closures are offset in different colors, while the inside of the bags have a bright orange lining that makes is easy to see what’s inside. "There are several other smart and functional characteristics, ranging from self-closing magnetic flaps to the spaciousness of the bags, even though they are relatively small," Kemper adds. It is those little details that make life more enjoyable and boost self-determination – like the fact that it is easy for users to open and close the bags.
Trade fairs are hugely important to someone like Kemper, who relentlessly pursues continuous improvement. He points out that REHACARE "is very, very important for us. Roughly 75 percent of our distributors we have found, or they have found us, through Rehacare. But the fair is not only important to meet with professionals in the sector, but also a lot of end-consumers visit the fair. The best feedback we get comes from the people that use our accessories on a daily basis."
Small but mighty: Making a big impact
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, REHACARE was a no-go in 2020. But those who made their way through the halls in Düsseldorf during the 2019 trade fair may have noticed them and still remember them fondly: QuickShoeLaces. The one hand tying elastic system is colorful and stands out. Not only are the laces attractive and a time saver, but they are also a game-changer for many people with disabilities. "It is not just a lace, it’s a shoe accessory" – the slogan perfectly captures why the company has already sold shoelaces in more than 150 countries around the world.
Another type of eye-catcher is Socket Socks. After 30 years of chronic pain following a childhood car accident, founder Joan McDonald made the decision to amputate her leg. While she lost her leg, she also finally left her pain behind. On the website, she writes about her excitement over her prosthetic leg. Granted, most prosthetic wearers would not exactly use the word exciting to describe the design of their device. Some even pay a lot of money for a permanent design – like a tattoo. But for those who long for more variety, the designer came up with unique prosthetic covers. The patterns and designs run the gamut from pirate look to "ugly Christmas sweater", which is also gaining popularity in Germany, to camouflage, comic themes, or floral patterns. If none of these strike your fancy, the company also creates custom designs based on the customer’s idea.
The founder noticed that the Socket Socks also change the conversation about her prosthetic: people used to approach her with sympathy, but now comment on how cool her covers look. As she embraces her prosthetic, McDonald's empowerment and self-confidence is perfectly reflected in her Socket Socks prosthetic covers. No wonder Enduro racer Marcel Michitsch is also crazy about his Socket Socks.
Actually quite simple: a belt with Velcro closure. But you do not have to do without the characteristic look.
Belts are a somewhat smaller and more subtle accessory, but – as all fashionistas will surely agree – they can still pack a punch. Sure, for most people, belts simply hold up their pants while they walk around. But the right belt can also be the difference between a decent outfit and a great one. For wheelchair users, belts tend to be a source of pressure sores. And some designs have buckles that won’t release easily. That’s why the Rolling Pants belts come with Velcro closures for easy use but feature the look of a conventional belt.
And if you are in the market for an outfit that matches your awesome new belt, check out the labels featured in our article Thoughtful and smart: adaptive fashion as an inclusion booster. It picks up on the same recurring theme: small things can make a big difference – when it comes to accessibility, usability, self-determination, and even when it’s all about finding the perfect outfit for every occasion.
Anne Hofmann (Translated by Elena O'Meara) REHACARE.com