Disability Marketplace : Products, Inventions and Events

This is a new area of Diary of A Benefit Scrounger inviting sick or disabled people to showcase their talents. It might be a disability aid you invented that makes life easier in some way. Perhaps a product you sell into the disability community that offers some kind of innovative solution you feel passionately about.

Many "spoonies"create beautiful arts or crafts, but just don't have the energy to manage all the other parts of running a business - bookkeeping, marketing, selling, postage, delivery etc

If there's an aid, adaptation or product you love, even a local business you think are particularly committed to making their premises inclusive and accessible. Why not write a little something explaining why you think it's so special and how it's changed your life?

Most of all, I'd love to hear about products and services that are beautiful or where the inventor has made an extra effort to make something just as attractive as its non-disabled counterpart . All too often, sickness and disability aids are gloomy, grey and clinical. They feel institutional. If you make beautiful underwear that just happens to double as a spinal support or walking sticks that people admire rather than pity, I'd love to hear from you. First up, with the inaugural post......drumroll please..... is Ian Davies and his brilliant "Plugster" :


"Because of chronic illness, I started having problems with my grip and some brands of moulded electrical plugs became almost impossible to remove, I came up with a simple design that helped me and realised the internet was a great place for promoting brands etc.

My local council had some support for inventors and when I discussed it with them, they introduced me to Michael McNicolas who used to be a marketing employee for a utility company. He loved the idea and told me that the energy suppliers had a duty to supply aids and adapters to elderly & disabled customers via Priority Services.

Finding a manufacturer took some time, but I was fortunate to meet Andi Edge and his boss, P Russell Vaughan who produced them very quickly. Thanks to these two, The Plugster® started being produced and promoted.

At this point I started to approach the utility companies with my idea as I felt it addressed the requirement set out in the Licence to Supply to give aids & adapters to customers. I also found a testing house to check The Plugster® was safe for it's intended purpose and was delighted with their report.

Unfortunately the big opportunity with the energy companies ended when they asked OFGEM to change the conditions in the Licence to Supply and to remove the condition to supply aids & adapters to elderly & disabled. Despite objections from some organisations, OFGEM sided with the utilities & removed the condition. The utilities had assured OFGEM that they'd help their customers, but as soon as the condition was removed they dropped any interest. Essentially, OFGEM let down the consumers they were supposed be championing and removed the condition that would have helped millions in the UK.

The Plugster® has been sold to lots of organisations & businesses including the fire brigade who said helping the elderly & disabled would help reduce wasted energy and help people identify what can be unplugged at night, thereby reducing the risk of electrical fires.

Over the last couple of years the main buyers have been Lions International UK,  who use it both to promote their clubs and help local people with a simple task many take for granted.

Although I don't do any work with The Plugster® I do create work for others and sales help to pay for an accountant to sort out the books, which is essential when proving to the Jobcentre that I don't make any personal income from my ideas.

Can't help thinking up ideas for products or puzzles and if any started selling, well I'd be busy getting some of my other ideas off the ground! I'm currently in talks with a University about another idea I have for a lawn mower and getting their design students to do some work on it as part of their course. 
I know I'll never be able to afford getting it to market but if the University prove my concept works and then show it to potential manufacturers hopefully I'll be able to buy one."
To find out more about the "Plugster" and see Ian's other inventions, please visit http://www.iantheinventor.co.uk/

1 comment:

  1. After her stroke, my mother raved about Whistling Tortoise ( http://t.co/mg24ewMFA2 ) in Edinburgh. The staff took time to find a number of products for her to use in the kitchen - many of which are still in use 11 years later! They have an online shop too.

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