When you’re the parent of a child with complex challenges, it can sometimes feel as if it’s you against the world. As if you and your family are isolated while trying to navigate the simplest aspects of daily life, from getting your child dressed, to going out to dinner, to planning a family vacation.
Well, some companies are working hard to change that.
Across the world, more and more brands are developing innovative solutions for people with complex health and learning challenges and incorporating a vision of inclusion into their business models.
Here are some of the noteworthy initiatives that are making everyday life easier, more accessible and more inclusive for ALL people:
For the shoe and clothing company Zappos, it began with a single phone call. A grandmother was searching for lace-less shoes for her grandson who did not have the ability to tie his own laces. Zappos, which prides itself on stellar customer service, failed to find her a solution, and that became the catalyst for the creation of Zappos Adaptive.
Zappos Adaptive now offers reversible clothing, clothing without tags, clothing items that are easily pulled on without zippers or buttons, and shoes with special features, including diabetic footwear and orthotic-friendly shoes. Zappos states “we truly believe that mainstream fashion can be available for all.”
Another clothing company had a similar vision. Tommy Hilfiger, in cooperation with disability nonprofit Runway of Dreams, released a 22-piece collection of items that look just like the company’s 2016 spring collection, but include magnets, velcro and other modifications for children with disabilities.
Several years ago, JetBlue teamed up with Autism Speaks to help make travel easier on families affected by autism. They created Blue Horizons for Autism, an annual event that allows families to walk through the airport and plane experience so that children or adults with autism can get used to the sights and sounds of travel prior to taking an actual trip. JetBlue also offers travel tips for parents of children with autism.
Navigating theme parks is another area of vacationing that may feel downright daunting. While many families have been upset in recent years by changing disability policies at certain theme parks, there are still many parks around the country that work to accommodate those with various needs.
Family Circle lists 39 theme parks that welcome guests with disabilities and arrange necessary accommodations so they can better enjoy their time and experiences.
Theme parks aren’t the only parks accommodating individuals with complex challenges. Many neighborhood parks are becoming more accessible, and there are more and more adaptive playgrounds specifically designed to be enjoyed by children of all abilities.
Other industries involved with everyday play have been making changes, too.
Toys ‘R’ Us, Inc. offers the Toys ‘R’ Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids, an annual guide that recommends toys that aid in the development of children who have physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities. Toys are not categorized by disability or age. Instead, symbols are assigned to each toy based on different skills.
Major toy companies are reinforcing the importance of inclusion with toys like Step2’s All-Around Playtime Patio, a playhouse that is wheelchair-accessible.
It should not feel impossible to take a flight with your family or find clothing items with which your child can dress himself. Life may be different when you are caring for a loved one with complex challenges, but different is normal, and it’s invigorating to see companies taking a stance to serve customers of all needs.
What companies or brands have you seen that are making adaptations to better serve all people? Share them in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook.