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ACCESS

DESIGN DEFIES DISABILITY

Using the power of fashion and creative expression to redefine what it means to have a physical disability.

BY JOANNA KADWELL


TABLE OF CONTENTS What is ACCESS? Fashion Impact

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Understanding Disability

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Design Defies Disability

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Construction

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Retail

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Who’s Doing it Right?

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Conclusion

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About the Author

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WHAT IS ACCESS?

ACCESS is a strategic design philosophy that focuses on researching, navigating and understanding issues that surround the designing, manufacturing and consumption of fashion. ACCESS aims to tackle the ethical, social and environmental issues that are present in fashion through consumer research and experience. It begins with a series of digital books and awareness campaigns that will educate the key shareholders of the fashion industry. Through innovative design thinking there are endless opportunities to make the world of fashion more sustainable, inclusive, ethical and positive. Why design? Because design can be applied to experiences, products, actions and ideas, it is a way of solving a problem by looking at it from all angles. More specifically human-centered design; a process that focuses on the experiences of people interacting with their environment, objects and others. By moving the industry toward a human-centered approach the dignity of each individual in society is prioritized over exploitation, exclusion, commercialization and unethical practices. ACCESS is the 4th year capstone project by Joanna Kadwell, a student in the Ryerson Fashion Communications program. It all

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began from an interest in the experience of fashion for people with physical disabilities, and has grown to a love for the human-centered approach to design. The first project in the ACCESS series is looking at fashion and physical disabilities. How frustrating is it when a piece of clothing isn’t available in your size? Or a pair of jeans just isn’t hugging you in the right places? Now imagine if you cant even put the shirt on yourself. Whether the disability is severe or minor there are substantial difficulties. It can be as simple as not being able to button up a shirt when you have arthritis, to not being able to enter a store because the entrance isn’t wide enough for your wheelchair. Now you may think these are rare problems. However it is happening much more often than you think, in Canada there are 3.8milllion people who identify as physical disabled, that is 10% of the population. Ultimately these individuals need access to the same fashion experience as any able-bodied individual. It is an issue of equality and diversity in the designing of clothing and the retail experience, with Design Defies Disability industry professionals and business owners can learn

The world isn’t built with a ramp. the simplicities of adapting their clothing and business operations to accommodate this untapped market. There are so many different types of physical disabilities from visible ones like muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and spinal injuries to invisible ones like arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain or Multiple Sclerosis. With Design Defies Disability we are looking at the common difficulties that these people face and coming up with simple solutions in order to help more than just the single individual. This is design for all.

Buchanan, R. (2001). “Human Diginity and Human Rights: Thoughts on the Principles of Human-Centered Design”. Design Issues 17(3). Statistics Canada. “2007 People with Disability”.

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FASHION IMPACT

Fashion and clothing is something everyone in society deals with and experiences, no matter his or her ability, income or personal taste. In most countries we are required to wear some sort of clothing, and only find ourselves without clothing in the comfort of our own homes and personal spaces. Therefore the garments and products we put on our bodies define our position and worth in society, it is the first impression we make. The items in our closets ultimately define us. What we wear is influenced by everything; climate, culture, society, work, income, our physical bodies, the list goes on. Fashion has an enormous impact on who we are and how we are perceived as individuals, it communicates our chosen message or story for the world. These items are also very personal and intimate, in that they are used to cover our bodies and interact directly with the surface of our skin. Since fashion plays such a large role in our lives it is important, whether you are a consumer, producer, manufacturer, retailer or designer, that we discuss and navigate the current social, environmental and ethical problems in the industry. The fashion industry continues to grow to astronomical profits and levels without

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STYLE IS A WAY TO SAY WHO YOU ARE WITHOUT HAVING TO SPEAK. - RACHEL ZOE


any formal standards or regulations. Currently valued at $3 trillion US apparel manufacturing and sales is not slowing down. It is a very powerful industry, and I believe it has the power to do good. Fashion has become a world of unattainable beauty ideals. Today the art of fashion is for money and fame, no longer are we interested in the craft of creating that started it all. However the impact that fashion has on our day-to-day lives is still enormous, and needs to be taken a little more seriously. Our society is obsessed with keeping up with certain trends and always attaining what is new and noticeable. We’ve lost touch with the main goal of clothing and that is to act as a form of creative expression. The reality is not everyone has the same opportunities and choices when it comes to clothing.

The current beauty ideals are centered on Caucasian, slim bodies, even when a very small portion of society fits that mould. What about the other ethnicities? Other shapes? Other sizes? Other cultures? Other abilities? Because of this ideal body image that we are seeing in the media, the rest of the world has fallen into a multitude of minorities that are not getting looked after. Slowly but surely major fashion brands are beginning to realize what they are missing, this has resulted in new sizing, different shapes and colours and diversification in representation. Nonetheless our industry needs to also realize the potential in a consumer with a disability. They have many of the same issues as others in sizing and representation in the media. Where things are different is that the garments being produced do not fit the functional and lifestyle needs of these individuals. With fashion so focused on the ideal body they are missing out on a different more complex and beautiful body type, that of the misshapen and imperfect. There are already enough social barriers for people with physical disabilities in society, it would be great if fashion could lead the way in becoming more accessible. In comes Design Defies Disability.

Ahmed, O. (2017). “Business of Fashion: Voices, Design for Disability�.

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UNDERSTANDING DISABILITY

In society disability has become a scary thing, something we don’t like to talk about. Whether that is mental or physical disabilities, they are associated with tragedy, sadness and disappointment. But if you have met someone or a family that has a disability in their life the likelihood is they are happier than anyone. Why? Because facing personal challenges and social barriers everyday makes you appreciate life just that little bit more. Some studies have actually confirmed that divorce causes more emotional pain and sadness than the experience of having a disability. Contrary to popular belief having a disability doesn’t mean that you are constantly frustrated and angry at the world. We all know that being different gains attention in some way, and a disability often does just that. “Disabled” as a social label is an identifier and definitely singles people out amongst their able-bodied peers. What people don’t realize is that it is the physical environment that disables the individual. The world has been designed for a person who has two moving legs, two moving arms and a height of 5’7” to 5’11”. Think about it, in your weekly routine how many places that you go have an

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entrance with a ramp or railing? It all starts with our lack of understanding of the word disability. Yes it does have to do with a physical condition that is limiting the person’s movement and abilities, but where the issue arises is that according to the dictionary it is also a disadvantage recognized by law. Who decided it was a disadvantage, some people would disagree as they consider their prime parking spot a definite advantage. Point is, this group of people didn’t choose this lifestyle, much like we do not chose our ethnicity or cultural background. Therefore they shouldn’t be at a disadvantage against their able-bodied counterparts, as we all just live differently. This may be hard to hear from someone who is able-bodied but just keep reading. What I am trying my best to make clear is that, why the hell is there even a differentiation. My friend Elisabeth who has Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy


dis a bil i ty 1. Physical condition that limits a peron’s movement, senses and abilities 2. A disadvantage recognized by the laws that define society 3. A minority of the population that is excluded from parts of society due to social and physical barriers


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ELIZABETH, 21

Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy

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We didn’t put those stairs there. deserves the same opportunities, opinions, options and experiences as myself. It is the missing ramp at the entrance to a bakery in our small town that separates us. I am able to try their delicious sandwiches, while Elisabeth isn’t even given the chance. In many instances it is not the disability or illness that singles a person with a disability out, it is the inaccessible environment and society they live in. Elisabeth is a great example of someone who has succeeded greatly in life even with the cards she has been dealt. Having just finished her diploma in travel and tourism from Sheridan College, she enjoys travelling and going to concerts with friends. Elisabeth also loves shopping and buying new clothes, however certain things she cannot wear because of her disability. The main one being jeans, the staple in the wardrobe of every able-bodied person is often too stiff, uncomfortable and very hard to put on. Elisabeth lives on her own and has a caregiver to help her get dressed, so she often opts for knit jogger pants instead. Nonetheless

her favourite piece in her closet is her purple prom dress, which from what I understand took quite the search to find. The most impactful thing I learned from getting to know Elisabeth has been that disability comes in all forms. There is this over arching assumption that if someone is labelled “disabled” they can’t speak for themselves. Elisabeth tells me about a regular occurrence, where they enter a public space and strangers do not acknowledge her. The assumption is made that because she has little body movement she must lack brain function. After hearing that Elisabeth at 21 years old gets handed a kids menu at some restaurants, I am astonished. As a 21 year old myself, I can understand how demeaning and heartbreaking that must be for her. It comes down to a misunderstanding of disability across cultures and society. As designers and leaders in a major industry such as fashion you have the opportunity to inform and educate consumers. By not only creating adaptive products but also treating these incredible individuals the same as you would an able-bodied customer. All said and done disability is simply a differing ability.

Marinelli, R.P. & Dell Ortol, A.E. (1999).The Psychological and Social Impact of Disability. Bendall, L. (2006). After Disability: A Guide to Getting On With Life. Pullin, G. (2009). Design Meets Disability.

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DESIGN DEFIES DISABILITY

Design Defies Disability or DDD has grown from a research project that aimed to find ways of adapting current fashion trends and garments to the needs of people with physical disabilities. Because of injury, illness or disease these people are missing out on multiple aspects of a “normal” life, and face difficulties when finding, shopping and wearing fashion products. This has become an awareness and educative campaign for the fashion industry. The goal is to make brands and designers aware of this untapped market of individuals who are in need of innovatively designed garments. The main issues and difficulties these people face with their clothing have to do with comfort, aesthetics and ease of dress. Today there are limited options available for this consumer; they are often referred to as functional clothing. These are the garments made for the immobile grandparent who spends their time in a home and can no longer look after themselves. It is apparel designed with no aesthetic value in mind, however they are helpful for the caregiver who normally has to rotate the individual as many as 4 times before having them fully dressed. Let’s be honest the old fashioned garments work for

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Models: Tori Lacey, and Mari Ramsawakh, Outfits: Un.Form by Sonia Prancho, Photography: Joanna Kadwell


I HAVE THE SAME SIZE WAIST AS KATE MOSS, AND HIPS AS NICKI MINAJ

- SINÉAD BURKE


your 80-year-old grandfather but not necessarily a young wheelchair user. This emphasizes the fact that the creative world of fashion and design is a remote concept to an individual with a disability. The issue is we can’t design products for each specific disability because that would be impossible and inefficient. With my research I have come to understand and identify the common difficulties amongst each individual and offer a solution for multiple people at once. Design and Disability, why are they worlds apart? In the medical world products are designed to resemble the body as closely as possible, focusing on the functional aspects. The fashion world should see this as an opportunity to bring creativity and innovation to a very diverse part of the population. The person with a disability deserves the same chances to dress and style him or herself, they have the same need and interest in fashion however aren’t provided for. A great example is Sinéad Burke a young women who spoke at the Business of Fashion: Voices, in December 2017. Burke has achondroplasia, which means she stands at 105cm tall, and regularly runs into issues with clothing and shopping. In her eyes the design world needs to

include the whole world, by marrying form and function they can have everyone dressed for “the battle that is life”. As a motivational speaker and blogger she emphasizes that she doesn’t need any sympathy, she just wants nice clothes. All it takes is asking the person what they are looking for. Being one of the largest minority groups in the population it is surprising nothing has happened yet. A total of 15% of the world population deals with a mental or physical disability everyday. The combined spending power of this population, including family and caregivers, is $6.9trillion, so the excuse that they don’t have the money is no longer a good one. Individuals with disabilities are looking for fashionable clothing and accessories that work for them. In the next chapter I will identify some of the ways you can access this underserved customer.

Freeman, C.M., Kaiser, S.K. & Wingate, S.B. (1985) “Perceptions of Functional Clothing by Persons with Physical Disabilities: A Social Cognitive Study”. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 4(1). Burke, S. (December 2017). Business of Fashion: Voices, Design for Disability.

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CONSTRUCTION

Of course as a designer or brand the main question is, in what ways can we make our products better while still being profitable? Well it’s a lot less complicated than most people think. For someone with a physical disability the things most important to him or her about their clothing are comfort, style and ease of getting dressed. Comfort of course is a top priority for anyone, no matter how good a garment or accessory may look, if it is not comfortable it will never be worn or purchased. Ideally the clothing we wear represents our personal style and creativity but is still just as comfortable as the footy pyjamas we wear within the vicinity of our homes. Style is almost as significant because it is a representation of ones’ identity, the ability to choose what you wear and how you look has a major impact on your confidence and self worth. Getting dressed for someone with a physical disability can be one of the more difficult aspects of life. It is a very personal activity, and has a major impact on the relationship you have with your own body and sense of independence. Ideally by using the tips and recommendations outlined in this book we can make the experience of clothing and fashion more positive and accessible.

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WHO CAN THIS BENEFIT?


BUTTONS Buttons can be hard. Depending on how a shirt or pant is designed the buttons play a major part in whether the garment stays on your body. Often they are placed at tension points making them even more difficult to do up. What about switching buttons out for a magnetic or snap system? Fasteners are often a deterrent for people shopping because if it’s going to take too long to put on what’s the point of wearing it. Magnets can be made of different metals and come in different sizes. They get rid of that dreaded buttonhole and makes putting on a basic dress shirt extensively easier. This can be used for a disability of any level. A snap system is also a good option, as it doesn’t involve the tedious task of getting the button in the hole. These fastening systems can be especially helpful for someone dealing with a neurodegenerative disease, like Parkinson’s where motor function is deteriorating. What is great about this

adaptation is that it is a very basic change and does not require much redesign. I first came across the use of magnets when I learned about MagnaReady created by Maura Horton. Horton discovered a need for the magnetic closure shirt design when her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. While travelling as a football coach her husband was embarrassed when he found himself asking a player to help him do up his shirt after a game. This can help just about everyone.

Creig, A. (July 2013). “Wife of Parkinson’s Sufferer Invents Magnetic Shirt Which Closes Buttons Automatically”.

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Model: Sonia Prancho, Outfits: Un.Form by Sonia Prancho, Photography: Joanna Kadwell

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ZIPPERS

WHO CAN THIS BENEFIT?

Zippers can be both easy and difficult. If they are a closed-end zipper, no problem, you don’t have to worry about aligning the two ends ceremoniously. If it is an open-end zipper, good luck. Open-end zippers are hard to avoid, as they are very necessary for closing and sealing garments like coats and jackets. The American design agency DNS Designs has come up with an incredible solution, MagZip. It is a patented zipper design closure that has a magnet at the bottom and can be used with one hand. Currently it is licensed to, and available in Under Armour products. The design was originally inspired by a need realized in people with Muscular Dystrophy, but can be helpful for outdoor athletes doing up coats with gloves on, young kids trying to zip up a sweater or someone who is blind and has difficulty identifying the separate parts to the zipper. The list continues on from there. DNS Designs: MagZip. dnsdesignsllc.com/magzip/

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OPENINGS

Someway somehow you have to get yourself inside the garment in order to be properly dressed. Depending on the size of the opening for your legs, head or arms it can get complicated. Especially with more severe disabilities, where someone is attempting to dress another individual without having to roll them over multiple times, it is a challenge in itself. What can help? Inseam openings, whether it is snaps, magnets or a zipper by widening and opening the garment from the inseam the garment suddenly becomes more flexible. Instead of the body and limbs being bent into clothing, the clothing bends and moves to fit the body. An example of this is in a winter jacket design for someone with Cerebral Palsy. The jacket has to be easy to get on and off when going between indoors and outdoors, and with temperature changes. By adding a zipper along the inseams of the sleeves and body the jacket only needs to go over the person’s head, rather than having to get the arms and shoulders in and out. Another way of avoiding that painstaking task of trying to slide a pant leg up or a sleeve over an elbow is creating an opening along the outer side seams. Like what Un.Form has done with her side snapped

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pants. This also helps to diminish the bunching and gathering of unnecessary fabric at certain points. Many fashion products are designed with closures at the back, mostly for aesthetic reasons. However this makes it totally impossible for just about anyone who isn’t flexible (myself included) to get dressed on his or her own. By switching designs to front closures, suddenly somebody who is paraplegic can get dressed on their own. Simply by bringing the action in front of our eyes it becomes totally accessible. Some brands have been able to introduce this sort of system with front closure bras.


WHO CAN THIS BENEFIT?


WHO CAN THIS BENEFIT?

Model: Mari Ramsawakh, Outfit: Un.Form by Sonia Prancho, Photography: Joanna Kadwell


PRESSURE POINTS

For many people with a physical disability pressure points and friction can cause major discomfort. The extra seam allowance left on garments often results in irritation, which is why many people opt for active wear that uses flat seams. The flat seam design often requires some altering to design patterns and cannot be used with all fabric types but it can make a huge difference. This can help someone of all levels of disability, including injuries and illnesses where the surface of the skin gets extremely sensitive. For an individual with a major burn or eczema the friction and rubbing of the fabric ends can cause pain and tenderness. The flat seam design sews the two ends of the fabric to one another and simultaneously cuts the extra fabric away, leaving no inside edge.

BREATHABILITY

Individuals who cannot dress themselves do not have the power to quickly take off a layer when their body temperature changes. Imagine how that feels when the sun comes out or air conditioner stops working. Therefore it is very important that the materials against their skin are breathable. When we think of

breathability often designers resort to something like linen however for someone who sits in a chair for most of the day that’s not going to work. Fabrics that wrinkle easily like linen never last on someone who is sitting in a wheelchair for most of the day. An easily accessible choice is cotton as it is generally lightweight and soft, however some more environmentally friendly alternatives include organic cotton, hemp and Tencel or lyocell. Organic cotton has the breathability of cotton but uses less water to produce and avoids all pesticides normally found in cotton. Hemp is another natural fibre it is also breathable and very durable with wear. Tencel also known as Lyocell can be considered the number one textile substitute today as it is a natural fibre made from eucalyptus trees and produced with very little environmental impact. Today it is being used in many active and outerwear brands like Patagonia for it’s soft touch and favourable drape.

Cookman, H. & Zimmerman, M. (1961). “Functional Fashions for the Physically Handicapped”.

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WHO CAN THIS BENEFIT?

SHORT LAYERS

Have you noticed that when you sit down in a long cardigan or coat it bunches at your waist and under your seat. This is something that is unavoidable for someone who spends everyday in a wheelchair. Dino, a young mechanical engineer, has always wanted a work appropriate formal jacket, like a traditional peacoat but nothing seems to work. This is because he spends his day in a wheelchair, and has to move from his chair into the seat of his car with ease, the extra length is uncomfortable and not manageable. What he and many other people with spinal injuries, paraplegia and other physical disabilities need are short jacket designs. By having a waist-length version he can feel professional and ready to enter the work place. The shortening also helps to get rid of that extra fabric and coverage that is unnecessary when that part of their body is protected by their chair.

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DINO, 25

After a Spinal Injury 6 years ago, Paraplegia

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RETAIL

As identified in earlier chapters the consumer with a disability has the spending power they just aren’t being supplied with the right products. Out of the world population over 1.3 billion people have a physical or mental disability. It is definitely a large enough consumer market that can no longer be an excuse. Not ready to create new products or change yours? Start with your brand experience at a store level. Accessibility is simple. Is the entrance wide enough? Is there a staircase? By switching these items out you are at least welcoming this consumer in your space. Other things that help are wide aisle ways and reachable product, nothing deters someone more than not being able to touch or experience an item. Allow for a 1.5 metre wide space between displays, shelves and walls that way anyone can move around with ease. Then of course what if someone wants to try on the garments? Fitting rooms can be narrow for any sized person. The core issue here is that many people with disabilities who have mobility issues require a table or flat surface to change or dress themselves. However I can understand how that may be difficult to include in a fitting room. If that’s not possible just be understanding,

provide a reliable return or exchange policy. As a business you can rarely expect someone to buy something without being able to try it on. In these situations it can sometimes be impossible to try the items on beforehand, making the clothing shopping experience tedious and risky. More than anything don’t be sympathetic, be supportive. Ask someone what they are looking for; be interested in their needs. No matter who your target customer is, accessibility is required.

Freeman, C.M., Kaiser, S.K. & Wingate, S.B. (1985) “Perceptions of Functional Clothing by Persons with Physical Disabilities: A Social Cognitive Study”. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 4(1).

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WHO’S DOING IT RIGHT?

Model: Tori Lacey, Outfit: Un.Form by Sonia Prancho, Photography: Joanna Kadwell

With all this said there are some brands and designers making a difference. Tommy Hilfiger for instance introduced adaptive garments in a line of basics for kids, and then extended the styles to adults. These pieces included special openings with snaps for ease of dress. Nike also garnered some attention after adapting one of their signature shoe designs for a young boy with cerebral palsy. The “FLYEASE” shoe was meant to be easier to get on, with a zipper down the heel and a wide foot opening. In 2014 Diesel, the Italian retail company, shared a new advertising campaign starring Jillian Mercado, a young model with muscular dystrophy. Mercado has become a well-known face as one of the first wheelchair bound models in the industry. In the Canadian fashion industry we have been known for innovative designs and products. Here are some of the people making gains in accessible fashion locally.

Singh, P. (2017). “Fashion for the Disabled Gears Up for a Positive Road Ahead”. Fashion United.

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IZ COLLECTION

Izzy Camilleri is a well-known Canadian fashion designer leading the industry in innovative, provocative and elegant designs. Camilleri’s IZ Collection is designed specifically for the L Frame of people with disabilities who spend most of their days in a seated position. In leading the way for adaptive clothing Izzy’s designs include cropped jackets, blanket leg coverings, open-back leather jackets and basic winter parkas. With the collection Camilleri aimed to create awareness of the barriers in society for people with disabilities as well as provide opportunities for models that are in wheelchairs. At this moment, sadly, Izzy has shut down her adaptive clothing line in order to focus on other ventures. However her success and experience shows the opportunities that lie ahead for upcoming designers.

Photo sourced from izzycamilleri. com of the IZ Adaptive Clothing

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Photos sourced from izzycamilleri. com of the IZ Adaptive Clothing


UN.FORM

Models: Tori Lacey, Sonia Prancho and Mari Ramsawakh,, Outfits: Un.Form by Sonia Prancho, Photography: Joanna Kadwell

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Sonia Prancho is a 4th year fashion design student at Ryerson University. For her final collection she decided to create a line of adaptive clothing. With a major interest in human-centered design and design for social change, Prancho felt that the collection was the perfect opportunity to experiment with different fastenings, seams and designs. With her collection duly named “Un.Form,� she was able to make garments that were easy to get on and off, that are also beautiful at the same time. After an internship with Monarch Adaptive Clothing Sonia realized the difficulties people with disabilities are facing when shopping and getting dressed, because of this there is a misconception of shame and embarrassment surrounding adaptive clothing. Un.Form designs are accessible, fashionable and inspiring.


Models: Tori Lacey, Sonia Prancho and Mari Ramsawakh, Outfits: Un.Form by Sonia Prancho, Photography: Joanna Kadwell


“UN.FORM is reclaiming space for the disability community in fashion with a focus on un-forming, instead of conforming to, traditional body and beauty norms.� - Sonia Prancho


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Models: Tori Lacey, Sonia Prancho and Mari Ramsawakh, Outfits: Un.Form by Sonia Prancho, Photography: Joanna Kadwell


THERE IS NO GREATER DISABILITY IN SOCIETY, THAN THE INABILITY TO SEE A PERSON AS MORE. - ROBERT M. HENSEL


CONCLUSION

First of all thank you for getting this far, it means you are interested and openminded to new concepts and ideas, and I am forever grateful. With this information I hope you can be a more informed member of society with a better understanding of a deserving group of people. The fashion industry needs to open its eyes to this minority that is in search of products that are comfortable, stylish and easy to get on. By welcoming them into into this creative realm I believe it will open up so many doors and opportunities. Including disability is diverse, ethical and necessary. If you only take away one thing from ACCESS: Design Defies Disability remember that disability is a physical condition caused by illness, disease or injury but it does not define a person. Disability is a different perspective, and an important perspective at that. Take time to get to know someone before you make assumptions and judgements because they could change the way you see and experience the world.

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JOANNA, 21

Able-Bodied, Human-Centered Design Advocate

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a student in the Ryerson Fashion Communication program I feel I have an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the world through fashion and personal expression. I have created ACCESS to provide an outlet for all things innovation and design, and making a difference in fashion. Before beginning my undergraduate degree I had no idea how little I know about the industry that I was so obsessed with. The 4 years that I have spent in the Ryerson School of Fashion have been extremely eye opening, not only to the value and impact of the industry but also its negative effects on many aspects of society. I love clothes, but I can only enjoy it so much now that I know what’s really happening behind the scenes. Using the platform of ACCESS I am able to create awareness around these problems that the

industry is at fault for and hopefully identify ways to navigate them. In focusing on disability for the first topic in the ACCESS series, I realized there are major barriers faced by those with disability in society and more specifically within their experience of fashion and clothing. As I can imagine people are thinking, what does an able-bodied individual know about having a disability? And to be honest I know nothing, and have not experienced it first hand, however I have gained my knowledge through traditional research as well as meeting and getting to know some amazing people along the way. The story that really started it all is actually quite entertaining. As many stories do, this one began with meeting a boy in a bar. It was the usual outing with a group of girlfriends to a casual bar. I spent most of the night on the dance floor or grabbing another vodka-sprite. We were breaking out the usual moves; shopping cart, sprinkler and singing our hearts out when “Don’t Stop Believin’” came on. Across the room I noticed a group of strangers were circling one individual as the songs changed. In the centre I found a young man spinning circles and pulling wheelies in his chair to Bruno Mars’, “Versace on the Floor”. Immediately I found myself joining their crowd, intrigued by this friendly,

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entertaining and courageous group of individuals. The night went on, filled with laughter and great conversation as well as a couple more drinks no doubt. The evening ended with an exchange of numbers and gratitude for strangers and connection. Fast forward a couple months the man on wheels became a close friend. We did many things together like going out for dinner, going to movies and going shopping. However never had I experienced these everyday activities with someone of his perspective. After becoming paralyzed from the waist down after an accident a few years before, he didn’t necessarily have the ease of mobility and accessibility that I did as an able-bodied individual. Through this short friendship I learned so much, specifically in the importance of appreciating yourself, your experiences and your opportunities. The biggest impact this person made in my life was that he opened my eyes to this group in society that faces personal challenges daily in order to partake in everyday life. As I went back to school in September it was time to come up with a topic for my capstone project. How could I make a positive impact

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on the world with what I have learned so far in my undergraduate degree? Here came my research project Design Defies Disability, a cumulative analysis of the relationship that people with physical challenges have with clothing. Through my research I have come to develop these design tips and strategies to help those who deal with a physical disability or impairment feel more confident and comfortable in their clothing. Ultimately DDD is an awareness campaign to challenge the stereotypes surrounding disability, and hopefully redefining what it means to have a disability through fashion. The future holds more research and discussion about other changes and adaptations. I look forward to continuing to learn more.


Thank you very much for taking an interest in this project and challenging the stereotypes and beliefs that currently surround disability. Please keep up with the work and connect with me on Instagram or Facebook at @accessdesignto.

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ACCESS: Design Defies Disability  

This is a guide for designers, retailers, advertisers and manufacturers in the fashion industry, to educate them on the consumer with a phys...

ACCESS: Design Defies Disability  

This is a guide for designers, retailers, advertisers and manufacturers in the fashion industry, to educate them on the consumer with a phys...

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