Our personal injury and medical negligence solicitors act for a number of severely disabled people following accidents or treatments that have gone wrong. Many are permanent wheelchair users. Whilst there are many innovative designs on the market these days, nevertheless, ability to move around easily is compromised and worse, the independence to go where they like when they like is restricted or taken away altogether. A huge blow and both depressing and frustrating for many, despite willing helpers and carers. It is just not the same.
The purpose of compensation in legal claims is to put a person back in the position they were in before the injury as far as finances allow. Sometimes all the finances in the world can’t do that completely, so we have to do the best we can.
One of the most exciting things for us is the coming of the driverless car. We appreciate it is still in its infancy, but development is moving quickly and it could soon be the norm to claim for a driverless vehicle or taxi service. If it was deemed safe enough, then as long as wheelchair users could transfer to and from the vehicle, it could mean that at a touch of a pre programmed button, they could travel to shops, schools, family and workplaces independently. Perhaps initially they would have a limited range to most used destinations to avoid having to refuel en route, which many may not be able to manage, but in time, they may be treated just as we treat our cars today – a vehicle ready and waiting to take us where we want to go when we want to go there. Independence and freedom.
Key to this is design. The Bar Council, responding to a consultation by the Law Commission said recently that a “clear policy steer” is essential to ensure that all such vehicles, including taxis, are designed with the disabled and potentially non disabled but vulnerable users such as the elderly in mind. They want agreed national standards of accessibility for HARPS– highly automated road passenger services. They also want to look at potential price differentials between disabled and non disabled users to ensure disabled or elderly users are not disadvantaged or excluded– they are after all those who need the service most.
We are not yet at the stage of the cartoon-beloved individual jetpacks or flying cars (Jetsons, anyone?). We have moved on with buses and trains that can take wheelchairs and potentially mobility scooters, increased disabled access and this must continue. It strikes us that there is a huge market for innovative designers to have a substantial impact on disabled mobility. Thanks to the futuristic designs of prosthetic limbs, any stigma attached to having one has been greatly reduced and the take up increased. How many more people could move more safely around their own homes if items like stairlifts didn’t look quite so, well -there’s no easy way of saying this –like a piece of bathroom furniture or safety baths quite so ugly and obvious?
Why do so many things scream “Disabled!” There’s no shame in it, but being disabled doesn’t mean you lose your taste, or don’t want functional AND beautiful things in your life.
Must be a student project in there somewhere-anyone up for a challenge?