Yesterday an interview I did with BuzzFeed about living with an invisible disability was published online. In the article, I discuss my experiences of living with a hidden disability and the difficulties and challenges I face on a daily basis due to my disability. The interviewer, Victoria Sanusi, and I also talked about how my disability affects my fashion choices and body confidence. The release of this article and looking at the pictures that were taken of me and my outfit choice on the day reaffirmed to me the importance of making fashion more accessible the promotion of disability within the industry, not only now but more so in the future.
In today’s society, we are continuously making strides to change perceptions, raise awareness and break down the stigma towards disability. TfL have introduced the ‘Please offer me a seat’ badge to make it easier for customers using public transport to acquire a seat whilst travelling. The disability charity Scope launched a campaign back in 2014 called ‘End the Awkward’ to raise the awareness of about how best to deal with disability in the workplace. Channel 4’s late night talk show, The Last Leg, is described by main presenter Adam Hills as, ‘Three guys with four legs talking about the week.’ An entertaining show highlighting and normalising the comedians’ disabilities. So as you can see, efforts are being made to bring the topic of disability into light, but how about the next big step in disability awareness being in fashion?
Fashion is a way in which we use to portray ourselves to the outside environment; a tool of self expression. Social groups have been using fashion as a method of expressive style for years. Just look at the punk and goth subcultures – these are groups in society that are using fashion to express their identity. So why shouldn’t people with disabilities have the same means and access to do the same?
For too long we have been eliminated from the conversation about fashion. When will the industry start to become more accessible and take on disability and showcase it in a positive way? There needs to be an encouragement of making disability more visible in fashion – from shop mannequins to runway and print models. We can see the way in which Paralympic Sports has really grown in the last decade and the continuous positive impact it has on the promotion of disability and attempting to normalise disability in the public eye. Yet we could also do with this sort of inspiration within the creative industry seeing as it has such a great influence. We’ve seen the way fashion has had the ability to positively change people’s lives so why not target this often marginalised group of society?
And how about when it comes to the actual accessibility of clothing items for those with disabilities? Those with disabilities represent a group which is not only often overlooked in fashion, but for the most part, untapped. I once read an article about a woman who started to design men’s shirts after her husband, who had Parkinson’s disease, was having difficulty buttoning up his shirt. Instead of buttons, she put magnetic strips in the lining so that those unable to use buttoned shirts still had a way of being able to wear them. It’s this kind of progressive and forward thinking attitude we need in the fashion world for all people, especially those with disabilities to feel embraced.
Whether it’s casting a disabled model as the face of a brand, or coming up with that one solution to alleviate someone with a disability’s limitations with a clothing item, the fashion industry could really bring about positive change in the way disability is perceived in the future.
This blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader