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Clothes for kids with disabilities get better, but teens see a lack of fashionable options

by Madison Thomas
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adaptive fashion

Clothing options for children with disabilities have improved over time, thanks to the efforts of advocates like Mindy Scheier, who started making adaptations for her son, Oliver, with muscular dystrophy when she couldn’t find suitable jeans for him. The Runway of Dreams Foundation and Gamut Management have been working with major U.S. brands and retailers to promote adaptive clothing. Despite the progress, teenagers like Oliver still face a lack of fashionable options, as the industry has focused more on younger kids and adults.

To address this issue, it is essential for designers and retailers to involve people with disabilities in the design process. Adaptive clothing should consider specific needs, such as hidden openings for medical devices, ease of dressing, and comfort for wheelchair users. Various brands, including Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Target, No Limbits, Billy Footwear, and others, have embraced adaptive fashion, but there is still room for more companies to get involved.

One of the challenges lies in catering to a diverse range of disabilities, such as sensory processing issues that require softer fabrics and no tags. However, the goal is to offer adaptive options that appeal to both those with disabilities and the able-bodied, promoting inclusivity and accessibility in fashion.

As more than 60 million adults and over 3 million children live with disabilities in the U.S., there is a significant market opportunity for companies to invest in adaptive clothing. Nonprofits like Open Style Lab are working to educate the next generation of designers on inclusive design, while brands like No Limbits aim to fill the gap for older kids who often find limited options as they age out of kids’ sizes.

Despite the progress, there are still unique challenges for caregivers of completely dependent individuals with disabilities. For instance, finding adaptive clothing that accommodates gastrostomy bags can be difficult. However, overall, the shift towards inclusive fashion is helping to normalize and celebrate children with disabilities.

In conclusion, the fashion industry has made strides in improving adaptive clothing for kids with disabilities, but there is a need for more fashionable options for teenagers. The key lies in involving people with disabilities in the design process and catering to diverse needs, while also considering the financial opportunity and positive impact of making fashion accessible to all.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about adaptive fashion

What is adaptive fashion?

Adaptive fashion refers to clothing and accessories designed to accommodate the specific needs of individuals with disabilities. It aims to provide comfort, ease of dressing, and functionality while maintaining a sense of style.

How did adaptive fashion gain attention?

Mindy Scheier’s experience with her son, Oliver, who has muscular dystrophy, led to the emergence of adaptive fashion. Unable to find suitable clothing, she began making adaptations, which eventually led to the establishment of the Runway of Dreams Foundation and increased awareness about the need for inclusive clothing.

What challenges does the fashion industry face in embracing adaptive clothing?

The fashion industry has been hesitant to embrace adaptive clothing due to fears of getting it wrong or not knowing where to start. Brands need guidance and support to ensure they create inclusive designs that cater to people with diverse disabilities.

How are brands and retailers getting involved in adaptive clothing?

Major U.S. brands and retailers, such as Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Target, and others, are working with advocates like Mindy Scheier and her organizations to introduce adaptive clothing lines. They are collaborating with individuals with disabilities to understand their needs and preferences.

Why is adaptive clothing important for teenagers?

While there have been improvements in adaptive fashion for children and adults, teenagers often face a lack of fashionable options. It is essential to cater to their age group to provide them with the opportunity to express themselves through clothing like any other teenager.

What specific needs are addressed in adaptive clothing?

Adaptive clothing considers various needs, including hidden openings for medical devices, easy dressing for individuals with limited mobility, and comfort for wheelchair users. It also addresses sensory processing issues by using softer fabrics, no tags, and no-itch flat seams.

How can adaptive fashion be made more inclusive?

To make adaptive fashion more inclusive, it is crucial to involve people with disabilities in the design process. Brands should consider universal adaptations that appeal to both individuals with disabilities and the able-bodied, promoting a sense of normalcy and inclusivity.

Are there opportunities for businesses in the adaptive fashion market?

With more than 60 million adults and over 3 million children living with disabilities in the U.S. alone, there is a significant market opportunity for companies to invest in adaptive clothing. Offering fashionable and functional clothing can attract customers from both the disabled and able-bodied communities.

What role do nonprofits play in the adaptive fashion movement?

Nonprofits like Open Style Lab work to educate the next generation of designers on inclusive design principles. They bring together occupational therapists, people with disabilities, engineers, and designers to co-create functional and stylish adaptive clothing and accessories.

How do caregivers of individuals with disabilities benefit from adaptive fashion?

Adaptive fashion can ease the challenges faced by caregivers of dependent individuals with disabilities. Clothing with adaptive features, such as hidden openings for medical devices, can simplify the dressing process and enhance the overall caregiving experience.

More about adaptive fashion

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