The NFL and Nike have tapped into the untapped potential of a market niche that is largely unexplored and certainly not crowded – supporting and engaging with families and yes, consumers with disabilities. Since passage of P.L. 94-142 or the Education for All Handicapped Children Act signed into law by then President Gerald Ford, now the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has advanced and amplified visibility and potential of individuals in the last decade in a way IDEA has been unable to in the last 44 years.
“Are you ready for some football?” is one of the most famous lines from a jingle heralding the start of the National Football League (NFL) football season. Recently, the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars all unveiled sensory friend rooms for individuals for people who required a calm, quiet place away from the roar and raucous cacophony of their games. The rooms are sound –proofed, laden with toys, and stocked with toys and other resources to relieve and reduce stress.
Other teams are taking notice and becoming sensory-inclusive-certified by offering kits with headphones. fidget tools, verbal cues cards and weighted lap pads. For teams leading the charge are doing so often from a personal connection; either from a family member like John Schneider, Seahawk’s general manager whose son is 15 years old with autism. And the Eagles owner Jeffrie Lurie’s brother is on the spectrum and the Eagles Autism Challenge is becoming a signature fundraiser for the team.
Last year, Nike featured University of Oregon runner, Justin Gallegos, a runner with cerebral palsy, showing the emotional moment when a Nike executive surprised Gallegos with a contract.
The needs within the disability community have largely been unmet and untapped. Innovators and those who recognize potential for growth are capitalizing on this potential.
How will you?