Social distancing, Swedish furniture, and disability

When a global pandemic crams our routines into our four walls, we’re forced to work, study, and play at home. For the able-bodied it can be challenging, irritating, and inconvenient—but for those with disabilities, it can feel like downright imprisonment.

Before the outbreak, individuals with disabilities navigated—outside of their homes—a world designed by the abled and—inside their homes—managed with a few necessary custom tools and furnishings. 

These helped them ambulate and participate in activities of daily living despite difficulties related to their disabilities. Such tools include beds with railings, elevated toilet seats, and enlarged keyboards, among many others.

But these things are “big picture” tools and are purpose-specific. For a pre-Covid society, which spent, at most, half their day at home, these things were just barely adequate. 

However, now that people (specifically the disabled population whose pre-existing conditions put them at high risk) are at home 24/7, they need tools that make home not only less dangerous or difficult to live in, but also more inviting, simplistic, and a setting capable of improving their quality of life

ThisAbles, although a project initiated before Corona was any more than a light Mexican beer, seeks to mitigate some of the struggles a disabled individual may encounter in their own home. 

ThisAbles is a project in which IKEA “joined forces with the non-profit organizations Milbat and Access Israel, that specialize in creating special solutions for populations with special needs and disabilities, and developed a new and revolutionary line of products that bridge some of the gaps between existing IKEA products and the special needs of people belonging to these populations.”

These accessories can be easily installed onto a handful of the company’s most popular products like the customizable PAX and KALLAX lines. In addition, the website offers simple installation guides in their minimalistic trademark design. Most impressively, some of the accessories can even be 3D-printed with the help of downloadable printing files.

Aside from the new innovations, which were developed by product engineers and designers under advisement of individuals with disabilities, the website also features the gamut of products that already exist in IKEA’s inventory that are accessibility-approved.

For example, shoe horns, waterproof chairs (which can be used in the shower), top-touch trash cans, detachable head-rests for the couch, and anti-slip rug underlays. Additionally, the project website includes a form through which one can share with the company a solution to a problem or report a problem that hasn’t been solved yet.

Here are a few of the available options:

Stuff Reader

“A device used to position a special smart sticker that contains information about the compartment content. The content is read aloud using a scanning pen.”

This solution allows the visually impaired to determine the contents on each shelf.

Insider

“Three mirror connectors that make the content of high compartments visible from a low point of view.”

This mirror, and its strategic angle, enable a person in a wheelchair to see the contents on a shelf that is above their eye-level.

Finger Brush

“A device that enables holding drawing and painting tools for people with difficulty operating their fingers.”

Easy Handle

“A handle for opening the door with the forearm or the whole hand, without having to use the fingers”

The finger brush and easy handle help those with limited finger control and fine motor abilities to paint and open their closet.

For more information on the line of products, or to report a need, visit their website at https://thisables.com/en/