Furniture that makes life easier for those with disabilities
August 11, 2022 | 5:09 am CDT

Furniture that is more accessible for people with disabilities not only aids the customer, but can be a growing market for the manufacturer.

Photo By Pottery Barn

Furniture for people with disabilities has become more available in recent years, boosted by the power of Ikea and its ThisAbles set of 3D-printable “furniture hacks” in 2019, and, more recently, by the Pottery Barn retail giant, which reimagined more than 150 of its best-selling home furnishings to better suit people with disabilities. 

Pottery-Barn-Inclusive furniture.
Pottery-Barn-Inclusive furniture.

In July, Pottery Barn, launched its inclusive line of furniture. Many of these were simple tweaks to existing products such as adjusting the heights of desks, tables, and vanities. The strides toward inclusivity at Pottery Barn happened after Marta Benson, the brand’s president, noticed one of her store’s bathrooms didn’t contain Pottery Barn furniture because none of its consoles complied with an ADA clause that requires public bathrooms to have wheelchair-accessible sinks. 

Benson started tuning into matters of inclusivity, which resulted in the brand hiring experts from the Disability Education and Advocacy Network and designers who specialize in accessibility to consult on the collection. 
The 150-piece collection includes modern bathroom vanities with compliant counter heights, open-style desks with accessible shelving, wheelchair-accessible dining tables and pivot mirrors in seven finishes. There's also a swivel nightstand, smart adjustable beds and accessories like desk lamps, sconces and hooks that fit contract-grade specifications.

Ikea's CouchLift
Ikea's wooden CouchLift.

ThisAbility not Disability
Ikea’s ThisAbles project was conceived to allow people with special needs to enjoy the quality of life provided by IKEA products. The company wanted to change the narrative from Disability to ThisAbility – a transformational campaign that is meant to “create a better everyday life for as many people as possible.”

The company joined forces with the non-profit organizations such as Milbat and Access Israel, which 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.

Many of these simple hacks can be created with 3D printing technology from free downloadable designs, as seen in this video.

Opportunities for manufacturers

The potential growth of assistive furniture is nothing to be sneezed at. A detailed study by Fact.MR, a market research and competitive intelligence provider, found that the global assistive furniture market is expected to reach a valuation of $ 5.5 billion by 2026, rising at a CAGR of 6% over the forecast period (2022-2026).

Assistive furniture includes all resources available to those who are unable to fend for themselves physically. These tools considerably aid the disabled in moving around, reading, listening, and carrying out other daily tasks, which is increasing demand for these product and accelerating market expansion. Furniture that will need to be constructed for this market include beds, riser reclining chairs, railings & bars, and door openers, according to the report.

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About the author
Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).