From Able Magazine #110 (March/April 2014)
The sheer scale of the annual Naidex National exhibition means that for many disabled people it’s a must go event. There simply isn’t a better event for showcasing the huge choices available to disabled people interested in trying out and purchasing all manner of products from the smallest gadgets to the grandest wheelchair accessible vehicle (and everything between). This year is the show’s fortieth anniversary and over 300 exhibitors from sectors including mobility and transport, communication and telecare, access and adaption, paediatric equipment and other daily living aids will serve an expected 10,000 visitors.
Part of the reason why Naidex is such a popular success is because of its location, embedded as it is within the NEC Birmingham. Not only is it a world class venue with plenty of consideration given to access and facilities but it’s handy for both trains (with its own mainline station) and cars, being within easy reach of the motorway and centrally located in the country. Even if you’re a long distance away, this is a commute that will be worth the petrol money.
Benefits Beyond Online
Although online shopping is becoming increasingly popular, exhibitions present lots of the same benefits without the downsides that you’d find on the high street. For one thing, once you’re inside the exhibition hall you’ll immediately note the access advantages in that the exhibitor stalls are all entirely open fronted, meaning that you won’t be edging through a narrow door with a step – instead, but just gliding in, having probably spotted what you want from yards away. As well as this, depending on the exhibitor and what they’re selling, nothing will be out of reach or on a high shelf, so suddenly shopping becomes a great deal more touchy-feely and you start to experience why it’s such a popular pastime.
This is one of the major advantages over the internet, of course. To be able to run your hands over something to assess its fluffiness, sturdiness, and weight is very handy indeed and a lot less disappointing than opening a parcel and then having to trudge to the Post Office to send it back.
Although there’s a lot of advice available online, only some of it is sublime, with much of it superfluous. Good advice is always worth listening to and the people assisting you at exhibitor stands really are likely to know their onions. Specialist disability products tend to be sold by specialist disability suppliers who tend to train their staff so that they know their stuff backwards. Throw into the mix that some of the companies that return to Naidex every year have literally decades of experience, and you’re on to a winner. In fact, a few of the people you meet at Naidex will have been responsible for literally inventing some of the cool stuff available (and this number gets added to with every single year). These are the people to talk with, who know the products and more importantly how they operate when you add people into the mix.
As well as being absolutely steeped in disability, the people on the stands are here to sell. This should please you more than panic you. This isn’t about hard sell, it’s about a thorough sell, backed up by a great deal. For once, market forces mean that with so much choice available, unless you get the deal you want, you can stroll away and look to get it somewhere else. In any case, there’s nothing quite like being able to discuss your requirements with people that understand disability and are able to advise you accordingly.
One of the most popular zones at Naidex is the Car Zone. Where else can you try out several different adapted cars on the same day and make a fair comparison? This year’s Car Zone is again likely to be one of the highlights with a test drive area for the first time alongside organisations such as Motability and Disabled Motoring UK providing visitors with the latest advice on disability issues, rights and allowances as well as answering questions about accessible parking, vehicle adaptations, congestion charging and other issues.
For three days every year the NEC Birmingham becomes a place where nobody either stares or shifts their gaze uncomfortably away from you. The numbers of disabled people that visit Naidex means that there’s an atmosphere of being completely at ease with disability. It’s nice to see people able to feel more comfortable about being themselves and many’s the time you’ll spot people sat around in the cafes who have clearly just met either swapping notes or just shooting the breeze.
Along these lines are the various sessions put on in the theatres. Naidex helps disabled people, carers and healthcare professionals keep up to date with the latest developments and innovations. With this in mind, there will be multiple ‘Meet the Expert’ opportunities whilst the ‘Innovations Lab’ will showcase the best in new technology and telecare products.
Similarly, you might also have an experience that you’ve never tried before. Exhibitions are great for getting involved in taster sessions of different sports or activities that might lead to you joining a club or taking up a new hobby.
Going to a disability exhibition, especially one like Naidex National is about opening yourself up to a host of opportunities. The best way to get the most out of your day is to have some ideas about what you want to see or do (the website goes into great detail). Even with that in mind, with hundreds of exhibitors to see it’s well worth leaving yourself a bit of time to simply wander around and try to take it all in.
Naidex National takes place at NEC Birmingham from 29 April – 1 May 2014.