Ikea teams with Israeli groups to make products accessible to disabled

Swedish home furnishings giant sponsors hackathon so disabled can better use its goods, coming up with 13 new products that can be bought or 3D printed

The Swedish home furnishings giant Ikea has teamed up with two Israeli accessibility organizations to produce new accessories to make some of the company’s furniture usable by those with disabilities.

Playing on the word “disable,” the world’s largest retail furniture chain created a new product line called ThisAbles in a collaboration with the Israeli accessibility NGOs Milbat and Access Israel, both of which specialize in producing solutions for disabled people.

Calling it the first joint venture of its type in the world, the work started in 2017 to test the accessibility of existing IKEA products and develop special add-ons to enable disabled customers to more easily use some of them, Access Israel said on its Facebook page.

The project was launched at one of Israel’s Ikea stores “with a hackathon of product engineers and disabled people that enabled better understanding of their needs,” Ikea said. “At the end of the developing process 13 new products were born, each solving a different accessibility issue.”

Disabled customers at an IKEA store in Israel. (YouTube screenshot)

Products included sofa elevating legs to allow those with cerebral palsy to stand up more easily, larger handles for closet doors and zippers, and products to help visually impaired and wheelchair-bound people find things on shelves.

“Although I have cerebral palsy I do everything I can to conduct myself like everyone else, but in my own home of all places I’m surrounded with furniture crying out ‘cripple’,” said Eldar Yusupov, an employee at an ad agency who wanted to be able to use Ikea products instead of having to buy specialty furniture.

“I’d like to sit on a regular sofa without being afraid I won’t be able to get up, to open a regular closet, or even to turn on a regular lamp,” Yusupov said in the ThisAbles promotional video.

Ikea noted that at least one in every 10 people in Israel has a disability and the project is part of the company’s corporate goal.

The new products are sold in Ikea stores, but the plans can be downloaded for free and produced on a 3D printer.

“Now they should come up with products that assemble themselves,” Yusupov joked at the end of the video.

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