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Monday January 03, 2022

Wearables Have Unique Risks for Intellectually Disabled

Wearable items– whether clothing or technology – got specific callout in a CPSC contractor report on product risks to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). An accompanying memo by agency staffers, pointed to plans "to build upon this initial report, conducting further research into the hazards to consumers with disabilities, and to use the results to inform standards development and information and education campaigns."


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On wearable items, contractor Fors Marsh Group wrote:


"Wearable items, such as clothing and headphones, pose unique inconveniences and risks to individuals with IDD; hems, zippers, cords, and buttons can all be difficult or dangerous. Meaningful adjustments for these personal technologies can significantly improve the quality of life and safety of their wearers. Many individuals with IDD end up spending a lot of time sedentary and having comfortable and safe clothing to wear can be important for creating sustainable daily routines. Clothing and other personal technology might not be top-of-mind for product safety researchers, but these items directly impact the quality of life for individuals with IDD and should be given fuller attention."

Fors Marsh acknowledge that as a category, IDD is an "umbrella term." Not only does it range from common attention deficit disorders to rarer situations like fragile X syndrome, it affects all ages up to seniors with dementia.


Some risk types – like burns, choking, drowning, falls, and poisoning – overlap those for the general population. Nonetheless, they can manifest differently and be more prevalent. The authors noted, for example, that burn risks for those with ADHD can stem from tendencies like novelty/thrill seeking, poor reading skills, and hyperactivity.


Other scenarios – like wandering or poor medication management – can be more distinctive of the IDD population. The authors pointed especially to the link between wandering and drowning. They also noted that adverse medication reactions among those with IDDs can be twice that of the general populations – reasons range from poorer health literacy to errors by those administering the drugs.


The report ( – dated September but made available in late December – suggests there is "astronomical" mitigation information at the "grassroots." The reason is that individuals and caregivers often have had to develop coping behaviors absent professional attention or awareness. The authors describe this as a "treasure trove" for researchers.