Dressed | Different
by Kate Johnson, CEAC
June 8, 2017
- Most people are fairly concerned about their outward appearances. We frequently hear in the home-modification business that they “don’t want it to look like a handicapped bathroom” or that they want to avoid “looking like a disabled person lives here.” They express concern that accessibility in their home will decrease the resale value of their house
- With many of our clients, they have learned to live with less and avoid going to certain areas of their home or out in public. They isolate and imprison themselves first in their home, and then in their wheelchair (and clothes), and ultimately they shut the world out and get trapped in their body and mind. It can often be very difficult to get out of this cycle/mindset and begin to regain their self-confidence
- Being (or feeling) different can lead to ongoing emotional suffering and isolation; this can adversely affect quality of life and health conditions
- Self-esteem is torn apart by feeling a need to hide or settle for clothing that is less than ideal (unstylish, improper fit, uncomfortable)
- Start by acknowledging the issue (or disability); work on self-acceptance
- Focus on the person’s strengths and highlight their other positive attributes
- Fight the stigma of being different; help people understand what its like. Most wheelchair users are frequently more limited by this social stigma than their own disability!
- Differently-abled people should not be ashamed of their disability. People are curious about the unknown and what they don’t yet understand. Be approachable and turn every interaction into a meaningful teaching moment
- This is their chance to be more than a fashion-forward “roll-model,” they can be role-models to others who are struggling and searching for identity
- People with disabilities (visible and invisible) tend to have highly active emotional centers in their brains (hyper-vigilance). They can be very attuned toward others’ reactions to their disability; but they can also be very empathetic and even sympathetic toward others who are suffering
- How we dress is an outward reflection of how we feel inside. If we don’t feel great, we won’t dress our best.
- Parents and caregivers can provide support by giving space and allowing the person to make their own dressing decisions (encourage independence)
- Increase awareness of adapted clothing options; support existing companies and small-business/startups so awesome places like IZ won’t go out of business!
- Find the right fit and style for your needs. It’s okay to try new looks or make your own fashion statement, as long as you’re comfortable and confident!
Ideas for Modified Clothing:
- Open back shirts and jackets
- High-back jeans for seated users
- Snaps or magnets instead of buttons
- Velcro instead of zippers
- Large toggles instead of tiny buttons
- Dressing aids (tools)
- Custom prosthetics painted to match the body
- Costumes and outfits that incorporate/coordinate with the mobility device
Current Accessible Clothing Market Analysis:
Janska Wellness Wear: Hosted a fabulous focus group in June 2017 to discuss ideas relating to the increasing need for adapted clothing to accommodate disability. Janska Wellness Wear offers colorful wraps, stylish jackets, comfy slippers, toasty arm/leg warmers, cute hats and more! Feedback is welcome to help improve product designs and incorporate new ideas and styles.
IZ Adaptive Fashion (recently closed): Surprisingly trendy and fashionable clothes for people in wheelchairs, sustainably made in Canada and shipped worldwide. Products include: snap back/open back shirts, pants that have extra coverage in the back, super soft and comfy fabrics, casual, leisure and formalwear, jackets, ponchos, blankets, shoes and more. Recently went out of business due to financial instability.
Adaptive Clothing Showroom and Buck&Buck: Loose and baggy fitting clothes, mostly for seniors (no young person I know would wear any of this, nothing for kids). Lots of Velcro and elastic waistbands. Nothing fashionable or unique in style, very bland and generic colors too. Online showroom only so people can’t try anything on to see how it looks, fits or feels. Poorly-fitting clothes can present tripping hazard and increase likelihood of pressure sores.
Custom Adaptive Clothing: Kind of a neat idea, you send in your own clothes and describe your needs; they modify your clothes and return them to you via mail. Not many companies offer such services, and going to a traditional tailor who does not understand accessibility/disability needs will likely yield mixed results.
Something Sew Special: A mommy blogger turned seamstress and entrepreneur. The business owner has too many orders to fill at this time and has stopped taking requests. She sews custom clothing for special needs kids after experiencing firsthand how challenging it can be to dress her own handicapped child who was growing quite quickly.
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