When Marta Benson, president of Pottery Barn, discovered that the bathrooms in Pottery Barn Stores weren’t outfitted with Pottery Barn-made bathroom consoles she asked a store designer about the design choice. He explained that the stores couldn’t use Pottery Barn consoles because none of them were ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. In other words, they didn’t have wheelchair accessible sinks. Benson was shocked and dismayed by the designer’s response.
“From that moment, I just started tuning into what it means to be inclusive and accessible to all abilities,” Benson told Elizabeth Segran of Fast Company.
Benson asked Pottery Barn designers to add accessibility features to many of the company’s most popular furniture and accessories. To ensure that adaptations were done right, she had Pottery Barn designers consult with disabled individuals from the Disability Education and Advocacy Network, and designers with expertise in designing for accessibility.
The result? Pottery Barn’s new Accessible Home collection, which premiered July 22 online and in select stores.
According to a press release, the collection includes furnishings for every room in the home. For instance, the “Irving recliner [chair] features powered remotes with easy-to-read buttons, multiple reclining positions, side pockets for easy-to-reach storage, and lifting to assist with sitting and standing; and the wheelchair accessible Pacific Desk comes in modular and open shelving styles so that users don’t need to use pulls to open drawers. … The Clarence Vanity, Pivot Mirror, and Linden Grab Bars that have been reimagined to make the bathroom safer and easier to navigate.”
The collection also features adjustable desks and beds; non-slip rugs, non-breakable dining products and lighting accessories specifically designed for disability.
Though home furniture for disabled consumers exists, it tends to be functional but not aesthetically pleasing. The Accessible Home collection aims to combine form and function so that everyone can enjoy living in an accessible and beautiful space.
“We don’t want customers to feel like they live in a hospital,” Benson told Segran. “We wanted to adapt our vernacular, our beautiful reclaimed-wood finishes, to these products. You shouldn’t have to compromise design to have this functionality.”
Despite their accessible design features, items in the Accessible Home collection will be sold at similar price points as Pottery Barn’s original versions. That said, Pottery Barn’s home furnishings are relatively expensive and prices could be prohibitive for many disabled and elderly individuals.
Even so, writes Segran, “Pottery Barn’s collection could send a signal to the market that there’s money to be made in serving the needs of disabled consumers and creating products that will allow homes to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. Ultimately, a line like this could nudge mass-market retailers like Target, Amazon, or Walmart to create stylish, accessible home goods.”