clothing

Dhruvika writes on sustainable practices in various sectors for BuzzOnEarth. Get in touch with her at dhruvika@buzzonearth.com. Sometimes she reads her emails too.

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Clothing, dressing up, taking the subway, dining, walking down the street, crossing the road etc. What about it? We do it daily. These activities are our involuntary actions and we don’t think much while doing them. It’s as easy as breathing. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone. These mere activities can become challenging for people with special needs.

Buttoning a shirt and tying shoelaces for people in wheelchair, tight-waisted jeans for autistic, wearing slippers with uneven feet sizes are some of the various challenges that people face.

Clothing is one of the many basic requirements for everybody including the disabled people. It’s a matter of concern that despite having millions of apparel retailers in the world, there is only a handful that are selling clothes specially made for people with disability.


Adaptive Clothing. What does that mean?

Pretty evident by its name and the context above, adaptive clothing is designed with the dressing needs of the elderly and disabled. The designs are often unique to the challenges people face.

Few of these designs include- Velcro-type closures instead of buttons, open-back shirts, and dresses, Zippers with easy-to-grasp pull tabs, side zippers for pants and skirts, seatless pants, velcro-type closures for shoes instead of shoelaces.


The Big Brands with Adaptive Clothing

Recently, things are changing for good. A few days ago, Marks & Spencer launched ‘easy dressing’ range for kids with disability. The initiative was met with praise around the world as Marks & Spencer is one of the leading textile retailers.

Top-notch firms are likely to create more impact due to their big reach and brand value. Tommy Hilfiger has also launched ‘Tommy Adaptive’ a few months ago. It is in with collaboration with Mindy Scheier, a fashion designer, and mother of a child with muscular dystrophy. The American clothing company, famous for its apparels and accessories, is selling clothes for adults as well as children that include jeans designed for people who use prosthetic leg and shirts with easy-open necklines and many more.

Target is one of the most popular brands when it comes to adaptive clothing. Their line of adaptive clothing for children, Cat & Jack Collection, is also designed by a mother, Stacey Monsen. Her daughter has motor impairments and needed clothes that can fit over a diaper for an eight-year-old.

Her clothing range consists of apparels easy to take on and off, wheelchair-friendly and can accommodate diapers and do not use tags and irritable materials

Zappos is another popular online company selling adaptive clothing and footwear for kids started by their director Saul Dave.

“Zappos Adaptive started with a single phone call from a customer looking to exchange a pair of shoes for her grandson who was unable to tie his own laces. My disappointment in not being able to replace the shoes inspired me to start this initiative.”

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Matthew Walzer (left), wrote an open letter to Nike CEO Mark Parker. Matthew suffers from cerebral palsy and had difficulty putting his own shoes.
Photo- nikeblog.com

Nike is also an old player in the market. In 2015, Nike launched FlyEase, an easy-on zippered athletic sneaker inspired by a letter from a teenager with cerebral palsy who struggled with regular sports shoes. The company is now selling shoes in men’s, women’s and children’s sizes.


Specially Made for Special People

Many a time, big brands fail to deliver. If you’re not getting what you’re looking for, don’t worry about it. There are amazing brands that are making only adaptive clothes and accessories. They are called Adaptive Clothing Companies.

Silvert’s is one such company manufacturing clothes based on inputs from clients, caregivers and healthcare professionals. Their designs include styles focused on challenges faced by people with arthritis, scoliosis, podiatry and mobility concerns.

Izzy Camilleri Adaptive Clothing makes clothes for people in a wheelchair. Their designs are functional as well as stylish. The fabrics used for the clothes are comfortable and durable.

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Izzy Camilleri design: Photo- izzycamilleri.com

Able2Wear is a company that sells wheelchair and adaptive clothing for all ages. Their designs are focused on providing comfort to people with spinal injuries, chronic and progressive illnesses, stroke etc. Adaptations by Adrian provides adaptive clothing and various accessories like cell phone holder, arm warmers, swimsuits, boots for all ages. Easy Access is another manufacturer making adaptive clothing for everyone with a variety of styles, colours, and fabrics.

Rackety’s is another adaptive clothing brand and their mission is “to add a rainbow of color and sparkle into the rather gray healthcare industry, reflecting the vibrant, challenging and colorful lives of our customers.”

These are some of the many other emerging companies and designers that are designing clothes with a conscience. SpecialKids.Company, Ross Daniel Adaptive Apparel, Able Apparel, Lucy Jones, Bezgraniz Couture, Runway of Dreams Foundations to name a few.


Making the World ‘Abled’

Sadly, the world we live in is not well-suited people with physical disability. An estimated 1 billion people in the world, i.e. 15% of the human population is physically disabled and nearly half of them are reported with severe disability. That’s a huge chunk of humans suffering in a society tailored for physically ‘abled’ people.

Not many entrances places provide wheelchairs, not many places have ramps along with stairs, not many companies sell shoes for uneven feet, not many sports accept physically disabled people, the list is endless. And using public transport is a nightmare for severely disabled people. These are only the physical challenges in the society. Due to these factors coupled with the way society views the disabled, people also suffer emotional and psychological challenges.

But the gloom is slowly disappearing. More products and companies are recognizing the needs of every part of the society and evolving according to it.

By making adaptive clothes and accessories, these brands are not just providing ease and comfort to the lives of the people, but also alleviating a section of the society that is often overlooked and regarded with pity and concern. They are breaking the stigma around disability and creating a world where there are equal opportunities and choices for everyone.

Let’s make our planet a place where no one, abled or disabled, would feel that they lack the ‘ability’.

Featured Image- Tommy Hilfiger Global

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