Scottish leather group unveils innovative neurodiverse-friendly aircraft seat designs

28/05/2024
Jamie O'Donnell (Muirhead)

MUIRHEAD, a Scottish Leather Group business has developed pioneering new designs for neurodiverse-friendly aircraft seat covers which seek to deliver a more inclusive and positive travel experience.

Its new Sensation collection, which features natural materials in soothing colours, and includes special signage and patterns, will be unveiled today at a major aviation trade event in Hamburg (28-30 May).

The Renfrewshire business hopes its innovative approach will inspire designers who specialise in aviation interiors as they consider the future aircraft cabin.

The range was created by Scottish Leather Group’s aviation division, Muirhead, which was founded in 1840 and is a world-leading supplier of low carbon, high performance leather.

The collection is designed to address common barriers to travel for neurodivergent passengers, including those with neurological or developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, learning impairments, or ADHD. It is estimated that up to 80% of disabled individuals live with a non-visible disability.

Jamie O’Donnell, Designer at Muirhead, said: “Air travel can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially for neurodivergent individuals who tend to have heightened sensitivities compared to neurotypical travellers. Seat covers play a vital role in providing them with comfort and a sense of security, enabling them to better regulate their emotions onboard.

“While the industry is making strides towards accessible and inclusive cabin design, many current approaches tend to be overly medicalised or infantilising towards adults with non-visible disabilities. The inclusive cabin of the future must balance functionality with aesthetic appeal.”

To guide the design process, Muirhead worked closely with Scottish disability consultancy Visible Inclusive Accessibility (VIA), conducted extensive research, and spoke directly with neurodivergent individuals who have faced barriers while travelling.

Stephanie Wilson, founder of Visible Inclusive Accessibility, said: “We were delighted to offer support and guidance to Scottish Leather Group on such a meaningful and important project. We truly believe that the more accommodations, considerations and conversations we can all have about access requirements the better travel experiences can be for all. 

“As an autistic person myself, I have always found any aspect of travel significantly challenging. 1 in 5 of the Scottish population have a disability – that’s over 1 million people – and, while considerations can be given for physical impairments and disabilities, 70-80% of disabilities are non-visible and adjustments are not always made.

“As a project and process, we champion the way in which good inclusive and accessible design can help, not just remove barriers for travellers, but also prevent them from being created in the first place while maintaining style, practicability and durability.”

The new collection features a soothing monochromatic palette of greens, blues, and neutrals to evoke a calming atmosphere. It also harnesses advanced digital printing capabilities to include signage and patterns that could help passengers locate their seats and process their environment.

Other key features of the new Muirhead collection include a variety of bespoke leather embosses, highlighting the importance of textures in curating a multi-sensory experience for neurodivergent travellers.

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