The Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (formerly known as Rica and Ricability) was founded by Michael Young in 1963. Its original roaming brief was to look at issues which affected all consumers.
For nearly thirty years it was part of the UK Consumers' Association, or Which? to you and me. Over this time it had a wide ranging programme of research covering a wide variety of consumer issues.
Early reports covered an extremely eclectic mix of subjects which reflected the high minded and rather academic nature of the new organisation. These included examinations and investigations of estate agents, railway stations, consumer education, town planning, new nations and car defects. However as early as 1965 an investigation of the particular needs of elderly consumers marked out the territory that was later to become our specialist area.
In the seventies, our work began to focus on disadvantaged consumers. Work at that time included investigations into the widely available drug Clioquinol, a critical report of special footwear, ground-breaking research into the sexual problems experienced by disabled people, and tests of the 'invalid tricycles' then issued by the then Department of Health and Social Security.
A series of 13 comparative test reports, funded by the Action Medical Research (or as it was known then, the National Fund for Research into Crippling Diseases), launched our central interest in the assessments of special equipment and mainstream products through laboratory tests and assessments carried out by disabled people.
Our other abiding interest - in the provision of effective information - was mainly founded on work carried out in the 1980s. Initial work included interviews with 905 older people about their information needs, experiments with different ways of presenting and distributing information.
In 1984, we were commissioned by Consumers' Association to research and published seven reports on disability to mark CA's silver jubilee. It has specialised in this area ever since. Its main aim is to provide thorough researched information which older and disabled people need to choose the most appropriate products and services.
The charity became fully independent, with its own trustees and programme of work in 1991. Close links are however maintained with Consumers' Association at trustee level, and through a core grant from CA and a programme of joint work.
Although the nature of our work has changed over the years, the charity has retained the core principles established by its founders. These are:
- dedication to the interests of disabled and older consumers
- high research standards
- strict independence
- information provided in clear understandable forms