Ableism And What We Take for Granted

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If infomercials have taught us anything, it’s that people are always looking to innovate and create the next big thing. Everybody wants to invent the next microwave or hair dryer, tools used every day to make life easier, simpler and more efficient. But how many of these experimental products actually see mainstream success? Surprisingly few, though it is worth mentioning that the ones that do make it to our store shelves are already revolutionizing people’s lives, just not in the way we might immediately think.

Take this cheesy fork commercial for example. Seems pretty straightforward, if a bit silly in a way. It’s a fork with a built in twirling mechanic, all you have to do is slide your fingers along the grooves and the fork turns for you.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “why would I need something like this? I can just twirl the fork on my own, I don’t need a fancy grip for that.” And while that may be true for you, it might be a different story for someone with, say, severe arthritis. Maybe, just maybe, this fork wasn’t built for you. Perhaps it was built for people with mobility or coordination issues, but it’s being marketed toward you. Why? Because capitalism.

See, somewhere along the line, companies decided that marketing directly toward people with disabilities or including them in their ad campaigns makes people uncomfortable, despite the fact that 15% of the world’s population lives with some sort of disability. Not only is this insulting to a huge demographic, but it also makes their lives even harder. Lack of representation aside, not being able to see yourself using a product or service, or not having items targeted directly toward you, means that finding the things you need or the tools that might make your life easier is really the luck of the draw. If you’ve got a solid support system, they may refer products to you that can help, but most of the time, those items are marketed toward the general populace, in the hopes that lazy people will purchase enough of these products to profitable enough to keep selling.

Here’s another example; the Sock Slider. A device designed to help you put your socks on. It sounds like a tool for lazy people who can’t be bothered to put socks on properly, but watch the commercial and pay attention.

Notice how they mention pain? Sure, they couldn’t be bothered or thought it might hurt to include disabled actors in their commercials, but this product was clearly designed for people with mobility issues, who genuinely have trouble bending over or moving their limbs. It would also be beneficial to the elderly and people with severe joint and muscle pain.

A lot of those products you find on Seen on TV sections in your local Bed, Bath & Beyond seem frivolous to us because we are able-bodied people. We might buy into these products because we’re lazy, or we’re looking to be more efficient, or whatever our excuse is, but regardless, people still buy them, and that’s crucial, because if we didn’t, these products would be pulled from the market, and cease to exist. That might not be a problem for you, but for the person in a wheelchair who can’t reach things around their house without an extending claw contraption, or the person with Parkinson’s disease who needs an ergonomic spoon to eat with, these products are life-changing.

This Stabilizing Spoon Lets Those With Disabilities Eat Indepe…

This stabilizing spoon lets those with disabilities eat independently.

Posted by Cheddar on Friday, June 30, 2017

So the next time you see a product or service that sounds lazy, like grocery delivery or a blanket with sleeves, don’t pass judgment so quickly. That wacky infomercial might be someone else’s chance at an easier, more independent life.

Sarah Nowack is a senior professional writing major who is minoring in graphic design. Her days are spent haunting the local library, consuming copious amounts of coffee, playing unpopular video games, and making terrible puns. She can be found at @battlerouge on Twitter and @shiverbound on Instagram.

Tags: Ableism, Fork, Infomercial, marketing, Socks, Spoon