24 April 2009

Asda rolls out new OAP-friendly range of wheelchairs and walking sticks

By Olinka Koster

ASDA is to start selling walking sticks and wheelchairs to cater for Britain's ageing population.

It said becoming the first mainstream retailer to offer mobility aids would help 'eradicate the stigma' around disability.

The new range will include a collapsible wheelchair and fold-up walking stick as well as devices to help remove lids from jars and turn taps.

One step at a time: Asda is to offer a range of living aids including walking sticks and wheelchairs to help 'eradicate the stigma' around disability
The supermarket is also branching into the market for bathroom aids such as shower seats and raised toilet seats.

The move comes after research has shown that pensioners will make up almost a quarter of the population within 23 years.

The aids will also be targeted at younger people with disabilities and those suffering from sports injuries.

Dermot McLaughlin, spokesman for Mobilease, which has collaborated with Asda to offer the range of 15 products, said: 'Until a few years ago no one thought you should be able to buy televisions or mobile phones from supermarkets, but now this is accepted as normal.

'There was a time when pregnancy test kits and condoms were sold under the counter.

'A similar attitude has applied to our business, but all these barriers are about to be taken down. It is about time the things that make life easier are easier to buy.

'The most important thing is that having Mobilease available in Asda will gradually change people's perception of disability and eradicate the unnecessary stigma that has surrounded mobility products.'

The range will be sold in 75 Asda stores from Saturday, and rolled out to more of the chain's 350 stores if it proves popular.

Until now, mobility aids have only been available on prescription through the NHS or social services, independent stores or specialist websites and newspaper or television adverts.

Mr McLaughlin added: 'The mobility and living aids industry has been stuck in the dark ages for decades.

'The very products that are created to make life easier for people have been cursed by a strange irony - they are unnecessarily difficult to access.

'They should be easily available to customers, but the existing government system can be slow and restrictive.'

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