Ford Fiesta or Golf Buggy? We should have more choice than this!

Here in North Cornwall lies the sandy haven of Bude. Whilst walking the coastal footpath near the town’s magnificent sea-pool we saw a woman in some form of four-wheel drive wheelchair tearing over the dunes. She appeared to have absolutely no fear traveling at what must have been full speed. At ‘Dare To Be Purple’ we love talking to anyone with a ‘Purple’ attitude so this was a woman we definitely wanted to meet!

We eventually managed to catch up with her and she kindly stopped for a chat. It turned out she was testing the wheelchair for the manufacturer and given what we had seen she was definitely giving it a good workout.  Now, we’re not here  to plug the wheelchair, she wasn’t actually that impressed with it but what we do want to write more about is the cost of the thing! 

Why does this and similar types of chairs cost the price of small, well equipped family cars?

Honestly tell us why are we having to pay between £10,000 and £15,000 for what are no more than glorified golf buggies?

All terrain wheelchairs are not revolutionary; they are generally no more than chairs with large wheels and thick treads, so where is the disruptive innovation to change this market and displace such ‘lazy’solutions? 

Continuing the comparison, wheelchairs v cars, lets go back to when cars broke the mould, when something different happened – the late 19th century. 

The early cars produced were innovative for their time but restricted to a very small market. They were an expensive luxury and therefore did not disrupt the mass transportation system, horse-drawn vehicles. This market essentially remained intact until the debut of the lower-priced Ford Model T in 1908. The mass-produced automobile was a disruptive innovation, because it changed the market, whereas the first thirty years of automobiles did not.

I’m not saying we need mass production to solve the problem of all terrain wheelchairs but we do need a disruptive event of some kind and lets not rely on current manufacturers to deliver this.  Disruptive innovations tend to be produced by outsiders, entrepreneurs rather than existing market-leading companies. Why? Essentially the business environment of today does not allow them to pursue disruptive innovations because their development takes scarce resources away from getting the most revenue from existing products.

So what’s the answer if we want some real disruptive innovation?

At ‘Dare To Be Purple’ we believe that the successful formula for a disruptive market is inspirirational designers and lots of aspirational consumers -people who demand more than what they are being offered.  We’re continually looking for the designs that offer more and we could do with the help of aspirational customers to do this. Why not join us on Twitter and Facebook and help give designers an agenda for some disruption support them to help manufacturers be a bit more ‘Purple’, a bit more responsive. If not, we’ll continue to pay family car prices for smart looking golf buggies for some time to come and given that choice I’d rather have a Fiesta!

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I’m contactless – but in a good way!

I read today that the over-50s are ‘embracing contactless cards’. Based on research by Saga involving 6000 people over the age of 50 the article said that one in every 5 of us over 50 have a contactless card and use it and as often as three times a week! It also mentions that more than 4 out of 10 people aged between 80 and 89 have used their contactless card once.

Hang on a minute though: there are around 58 million contactless cards in the UK so they are as common as the chips they use and the ones we eat (more about chips in our next blog) and given the limit for a single payment using a contactless card increased from £20 to £30 in September we have more opportunities to use them; so why so little engagement by the over 50’s? Perhaps the bridge too far was actually raising the cash limit. Seven out of 10 people questioned said they worry about the security of contactless credit or debit cards!

So what can these statistics tell us? Well if we turn all of them on their head and look at them from a sideways point of view, (difficult, but everything is possible with statistics) it’s more a negative than positive picture. Far from embracing this new technology we are shunning it, and the older we get the more suspicious or perhaps more sceptical we become – but then again the definition of a sceptic is a realist with life experience!

So where’s the relevance for enabling aids and later life – I’m presuming that’s the reason you’re reading this blog?

Like contactless cards at the moment, enabling aids are something few of choose to use, preferring to struggle on and we worry too much when we do have them.

So what are the solutions to what now might be a common set of problems?

The first thing for both is the need to change perceptions. One way is the provision of opportunities to use whatever it is we don’t understand and preferably in familiar environments.

In the same way that the range of places where contactless payments are accepted, Aldi, Greggs, McDonald’s, M6 Toll, London Buses, London Tubes and the Post Office, we have to increase the range of opportunities for people to use enabling aids.

For example, a friend or family member taking the time to regularly go walking with someone who now needs to use a cane or other walking aid can build up an acceptance that these things do offer advantages to their lives and may also help re-build that ‘Dare To Be Purple’ confidence and attitude!

Secondly we need to promote the security and feeling of safety in the use of both; contactless cards and enabling aids. This can be achieved through the provision of information and services. The UK Cards Association backs up contactless cards. They describe instances of fraud on contactless cards as ”extremely rare”, with losses of less than a penny for every £100 spent on contactless – far lower than card fraud generally. Also if your card is fraudulently used you will be reimbursed, as long as you have taken reasonable steps to keep your card safe. Feel a bit safer, a bit more secure?

We need our own association to do the same with regard to enabling aids. To provide a similar supportive framework and the necessary information for people to use their enabling aid.

However, the different services and people involved in enabling aids; health and social services, voluntary organisations, consumer groups, family, equipment retailers etc. have no overarching body and all have well-intentioned but slightly different objectives. This often means that although the information and support can be comprehensive it can also be fragmented, not readily accessible in one place and sometimes in the absence of other opinion, confusing.

This issue is not the exclusive territory of those with complex needs. Those of us with more simple, less complex requirements also want to feel secure, particularly from exclusion or derision. As we previously wrote no one wants to be pointed out as disabled or less-able. We argued that we need to create an environment where good design leads the development of inclusive products and services. We make the same case here, but broaden the call to action. We invite everyone involved in commissioning, supporting and promoting enabling living to consider the person who they are helping and ask of themselves the questions: Would I use this? Is there enough assessable information available? If the answer is no to either then we don’t have a solution, we have a problem that the intended user doesn’t need.

So what’s needed to move things along? Well let’s share advice but consider this advice given by a spokesperson for Saga when talking about contactless cards –   “… people should use their contactless card wisely and only buy things they really need with it as it can be easy to get a bit too tap-happy with your bank or credit card” – well-intentioned but perhaps slightly patronising?

We need advice but more peer to peer discussion is necessary. We need to promote amongst ourselves a wider conversation on the pros and cons of enabling aids not only by those who use them but to include the voices of those who support others to use them.

New things are sometime better, not always, but quite often and we’ll never find out unless we get a more Purple attitude. We need to investigate the value of the products, the services and the opportunities being provided or presented and more importantly challenge ourselves to avoid a ‘beige’ existence and to live a ‘purple’ life! Get tapping away, one way or another you have nothing to lose!