When Justin Farley was attending Hamilton Middle School in the Heights, he wore sweatpants to school every day of the week. Given his limited motor control due to cerebral palsy, they were the only pants he could manage to get on without assistance. One day after school, his parents took a pair of jeans to a tailor, where they added elastic. “I never wore sweatpants again,” says Farley.
He had a similar experience at the University of Houston, where he was enrolled in the entrepreneurship program. The other business students would be in oxfords and ties; Justin was limited to polos he could pull over his head. But as a college student, he was in a position to do something about it. Months after graduating in 2012, Farley launched Unlimiters, a site that connects clever products—see this handy bowling ball pusher—to people with some sort of limitation, whether they be aging, parapalegic, or just bad at opening pickle jars. Featured on the site are these oxfords with magnetic buttons, the 25-year-old’s favorite product among the thousands he carries.
To help research products, Farley brought on his current Business Development Facilitator, another UH graduate named Derek Yeung, and a stable of bloggers with disabilities who recommend various helpful items. Below-the-knee amputee Peggy Chenoweth recommends this soda stream because it keeps her from having to lug heavy soda cans from the car to the kitchen. Quadriplegic Tiffany Carlson points us to these side-button UGG boots, which are easy to get on her paralyzed feet.
The boots and soda stream bring us to another insight of Farley and his team, which is that the most helpful products aren't necessarily those specifically developed with disabled customers in mind. And the most eager customers aren't necessarily those who think of themselves as limited. "Seniors may not label themselves as having a physical disability," say Farley, "but they are a majority of the physical disability market."