Once a man, twice a child



City Mobility.

On the 21st of October I visited City Mobility in Bermondsey. It is a shop specialising in mobility aids/tools and seemed to represent everything that I feel is wrong with the aesthetic of old age and disability.

See website –


There is nothing desirable about this image ^. Its a common language amongst sellers of such items.

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Reasons for visiting –

  • I aimed to get a good grip on how much mobility tools cost both new/used.
  • To understand the buying experience of such objects – are those that need this stuff often without voices/choice.. is that why this stuff has remained as awful and inelegant as it is?
  • This is a new world to me so I wanted to visit to get any sort of information
  • I wanted to see how this stuff was showcased, any delight in the experience – in this case non at all and I’d wager this is common.

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Processed with VSCO with c1 preset



Processed with VSCO with c1 preset


I feared that the people/person that run this shop wouldn’t understand my interest in the shop but the owner of the shop was so helpful and seemed to be very interested in giving me an insight into the lacks of the current objects. I simple said I am a design student and I am looking to re-design a few of these objects/tools – is it okay if I have a look around.. I got the impression that people aren’t usually interested in these objects, they are often a last resort. I want to change that, I want to change the experience of buying this stuff. I am interested in the elderly and frail as a target audience, but I understand that there is a real crossover in terms of use. Those with no legs, or those with frail limbs use similar tools. Laura asked me to choose an implication when presenting at Ayfaw Kucha, but I made the point of explaining that it isn’t as simple as that, as wheelchairs/walking sticks/mobility scooters/stairlifts etc aren’t only for the disabled or the elderly. they are for both. I mentioned this to the owner of city mobility and he agreed, he said the benefits they receive are the same and there is no differentiation in terms of the tools they need. this is where the title of this post comes from. He muttered under his breath, ‘once a man, twice a child’ it stuck with me. I imagine this being a title to a very important part of my context report or the title of the book itself.

So i decided that I didn’t want to plan it, didn’t want to have a script, just go in as a customer and hope to engage with somebody in there.

So even secondhand, He pointed to a few wheelchairs and said these start at around £100. They didn’t look like they could possibly be worth that, tatty and ugly.

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Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset


He didn’t really touch on the style of the mobility aids, but did mention that a self powered  wheelchair isn’t ideal as most people get very tired and would prefer a powered chair.. I get where he is coming from but also I think the most recognisable chair is self powered and its the one i wish to focus on to begin with and probably for this entire project.



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