Our latest news
Obituary: former chair of trustees, Graham Corbett
Our chair of trustees, Phil Friend, writes:
On April 27 my predecessor, Graham Corbett, CBE, sadly passed away. He was 83 and had been battling cancer since he stood down as Rica's chair in 2016.
Graham became disabled through a spinal cord injury as a teenager and began using a wheelchair in his 40s. After an illustrious career in finance and regulation, he became chair of Rica in 1998. He then worked tirelessly to ensure that all forms of transport were made accessible. His passion for gadgets and innovation led him to establish the Rica Panel, which brought together a wide variety of different disabled people who shared their views on the usefulness of particular equipment and devices.
Graham was a quiet, modest, self-effacing man whose style of leadership was supportive and encouraging. Disabled people throughout the UK have benefited hugely from his tireless enthusiasm for making the world a more inclusive place. We will all miss him and are grateful for having had the good fortune to know him. Our thoughts and best wishes go to Graham's widow Anne and his two sons.
The Financial Times and the Telegraph have both published obituaries of Graham Corbett. (To see the FT obituary, search for Graham's name and you can read it free.)
Change of name for Rica
On 3 May 2018 we changed our name to the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers. We made this change as part of our new strategy and to help make what we do clearer. We’re also making some changes to our website to reflect our new branding.
Jon Quinn, Chief Executive of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, said:
“This is an exciting time for the charity. Our new strategy commits us to helping more people today, and to securing changes in products and services tomorrow. Our work will focus on three key areas:
- Through insight and specialist research, helping businesses to improve products and services for disabled and older consumers
- Providing free high-quality consumer information and user reviews
- Representing the voice of disabled and older consumers to decision makers
Our new working name and branding will help make that a reality.
In the coming months we will be making changes to our website and publishing our information in different ways.”
Financial lasting power of attorney: the views of people with dementia
Our latest research project looks at how people with dementia and their partners and/or carers experience the process of getting a financial lasting power of attorney (LPA). We found that people with dementia experience a sense of relief once an LPA is in place, but that holding an LPA put a burden of responsibility on their relatives or carers. In addition, not all businesses (such as banks, utilities, agencies) have staff who are fully aware of LPAs and their administration, which can increase pressure on LPA holders.
It was carried out in partnership with Innovations in Dementia and the West of Berkshire DEEP group.
Accessible gyms podcast
Rica's recently-published research on (in)accessible gym equipment and visually impaired people (see the story below) has reached New Zealand. The BlindSide podcast features an interview with our Chris Lofthouse and Mike Brace of Thomas Pocklington Trust, our partners in the research project.
Listen to the BlindSide interview - it starts at six and a half minutes into the podcast.
Fitness equipment and visually impaired gym users
Visually impaired (VI) people enjoy the health benefits of exercise and would like to be more physically active, our recent research shows. However, they find that the design of fitness equipment used in many gyms is a barrier to their taking part in exercise.
Rica calls for both gym operators and equipment manufacturers to provide more accessible, inclusively designed equipment to help remove this obstacle.
Our research project investigated the accessibility and ease of use of fitness equipment controls found on treadmills, exercise bikes, cross trainers and rowing machines by 20 blind and partially sighted people, followed by feedback from three focus groups and 20 individual interviews. The research was carried out by Rica with the support of Thomas Pocklington Trust and Metro Blind Sport.
The full research report Inclusive Fitness Equipment for people with a visual impairment is at: http://bit.ly/Inclusivefitnessvips
A summary copy of the research findings is available at: http://bit.ly/InclusiveFitnessTPTSummary
Copies of the full research report and the summary paper are available, on request, in Braille and on audio-cd from Thomas Pocklington Trust; please phone: 020 8996 1937
Rate it! Rica's product reviews by and for disabled people
We recently carried out a survey about people's experiences of online product reviews and how best to make the reviews relevant, accessible and inclusive. Thank you to the 400 people that took part and we're pleased to announce that we awarded the Prize of the £50 shopping voucher to Mr Anonymous in Liverpool!
We've called the reviews project Rate it! and we’ll be working with partners including Laura Horton from Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL) and Denise Stephens from Enabled by Design, with input and advice from the organisation Which?.
The Rate it! project will develop an online product review website for disabled consumers. It’s been awarded funding from the DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) programme, a five-year scheme led by disabled people and funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
Primary driving controls research
In January 2017, Rica held two workshops with new users of driving controls at QEF Mobility Services, Carshalton, Surrey. The resulting findings are presented in a research report, intended for professionals advising disabled people on their motoring choices. It also has useful comments and advice from other disabled drivers:
Go to Primary driving controls research report, 2017 (PDF).
Rica appoints Jon Quinn as Chief Executive
Rica (the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs), the consumer champion for older and disabled people, has appointed Jon Quinn as its Chief Executive. He joins Rica in April from Shelter, most recently as their Head of Campaigns, having previously worked with the Conservative party at a local, regional and national level, becoming Head of Campaign Literature at CCHQ.
Dr Phil Friend, OBE, Chair of the Rica board of trustees, said: “We are delighted that Jon is joining us at such a crucial point in our journey. He has all the skills and experience we need to move the organisation forward. Rica is determined to substantially expand its work as the consumer champion for older and disabled people, and Jon will help to ensure that we deliver this ambitious objective.”
Jon Quinn said: “I am tremendously excited and honoured to accept the role as Chief Executive at Rica. I look forward to working with the trustees and the team to take the organisation to the next level, growing the charity’s research and promoting its work to a greater number of older and disabled people.”
Consumer group sets the scene for more dementia-friendly RSC performances
Performances with more intervals and clearer, better-positioned signage could make visits to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST), Stratford-upon-Avon, even more enjoyable for people living with dementia, a local group has told Rica researchers. The group, eight members of the Redditch and Bromsgrove Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project (DEEP) group called ‘Friends Together’, all have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. They range in age from the late 50s to the early 70s.
The research took the form of a visit to a relaxed performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the RST, Stratford-upon-Avon, by eight members of ‘Friends Together’ and five of their friends and partners. The group's suggestions can be applied to many kinds of performances, not just to Shakespeare plays in the theatre.
What stops wheelchair users from getting active?
There is a clear need for sports providers to offer more local sport and physical activity opportunities which are accessible for wheelchair users, new research from Rica reveals.
The findings (published on 19 October, 2016) in a report carried out for WheelPower - British Wheelchair Sport, aim to support providers and sports bodies in planning and delivering their activities to better meet the needs of wheelchair users.
WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport, commissioned Rica to carry out a national survey into wheelchair users’ participation in sport and physical activity. The report, Talk About Taking Part, includes responses from both wheelchair users who lead an active lifestyle and those who don’t currently take part in any form of sport or physical activity.
The report highlights:
- A lack of suitable opportunities was the top barrier for wheelchair users (44 per cent of respondents).
- Too few accessible venues came a close second (39 per cent).
- The cost of specialist equipment often needed by wheelchair users to take part in sport is also a significant barrier.
- Nearly three quarters (74 per cent) said they would like to be more active in the future.
- Just over half of survey respondents (54 per cent) travel for more than 30 minutes to take part in sport or physical activity.
- Travelling distance can be a barrier for nearly a third (29 per cent), which shows a clear need for more local provision of suitable sporting opportunities.
The report also highlights key survey findings about current participation trends, motivations and barriers to being active, as well as the sports and activities wheelchair users currently take part in, and what they would like to do more of in the future.
Organisations such as national governing bodies of sport, county sports partnerships, and local sports providers should particularly benefit from these findings to support them to improve their activity offers for wheelchair users.
Inclusive design and smart technology for household appliances have the potential to boost the independence of older people and those with sight loss and other disabilities, new research by Rica suggests.
Martin Austin, Managing Director of Nimbus Disability, talks about how and why the Access Card was developed.
Clearer directions and signage, avoiding information overload and providing dedicated headphones could all make the experience of visiting Rochester’s Huguenot Museum an even more enjoyable place to visit for people who have dementia, local mystery shoppers say in a new report by research charity Rica.
The shoppers, members of the Kent-based Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project (DEEP) group Memorybilia, are all people living with dementia and range in age from the mid-50s to the late 60s. They visited the Huguenot Museum ‘anonymously’ in October 2015 as part of its ongoing drive to ensure that its galleries and events are accessible to as many people as possible.
Rica is working with Innovations in Dementia to launch a research resource which involves people dementia in local and national consumer research, providing feedback and insight on products, services and environments. Read more here
Rica on BBC Radio 4's 'In Touch' programme
Rica's Chris Lofthouse was on BBC Radio 4's 'In Touch' programme on Tuesday, 27 October 2015, talking about the Hive Active Heating 2 smart thermostat (see below). Our consumer panel's recommendations were taken up by British Gas in designing this new interactive heating control. Listen to the whole programme via the BBC website here.
Consumer charity gives new British Gas’ Hive Active Heating 2 control top marks for inclusive design
The new Hive Active Heating 2 smart thermostat is a ‘game changer’, says specialist research charity Rica. As part of the product’s design process, British Gas worked with Rica to independently test Hive Active Heating 2 and its full range of new heating controls with older and disabled consumers.
Rica is delighted that the interactive heating control’s design incorporates many suggestions made by their consumer testing panel, including improved colour contrast on the display.
The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) asked Rica to carry out a two-year study to establish levels of satisfaction with their booked Passenger Assist service and to track possible changes over time.
Passengers reported on all aspects of their journey from booking to leaving their destination station, evaluating the usefulness and accessibility of each stage of the journey.
Rica's findings at the end of the first year include:
- Passengers are largely satisfied with booking, but
- In 12% of journeys the passenger did not receive a booking confirmation
- Passengers find it easy to find information on routes and times (84%), but less so on facilities (68%) and accessibility (65%)
- On 90% of journeys the passenger received all or some of the assistance they had booked
- Assistance getting on to the train was mostly provided when it was needed (92% of journeys); assistance to the seat less so (77%)
- Help getting off the train was provided on only 78% of journeys
- Where a ramp was needed this was provided on 93% of journeys
- Staff behaviour was rated highly. Booking staff received 80% satisfaction rating, station staff 70% and on train staff 60%
- A total of 69% of journeys were rated as good or very good
- On 59% of journeys passengers felt confident or very confident
- Older passengers are less likely to feel confident, as are passengers with learning disabilities.
Read Rica's report on the first year's research into Passenger Assist here.
See our full list of research reports here.
Last updated: June 2018