When I was a radio host in Norfork, Va., five years ago, I began a campaign to raise awareness of the difficulty people with disabilities have finding comfortable, easy-to-wear clothing. I dubbed myself the PJ Deejay and vowed to wear pajamas every day for a year.
I bought 60 pairs of Target sleepwear, had them embroidered with a PJ Deejay logo and packed away my regular wardrobe. It was hard work; I went to the radio station, to church, and even on dates in my pajamas. All along, I knew it was for a good cause, to advocate for a more inclusive American fashion industry.
Accessible fashion is an issue of utmost importance to me, personally and professionally. I was born without a right thumb and without toes, and doctors had to move bones around to allow me to walk. I’ve been a successful DJ, dancer, professional cheerleader and voice-over actress, but sometimes doing something as simple as fastening the clasp on a necklace is a challenge.
And it’s not just me. People with seated body types actually need clothing designed for sitting. For instance, the back of pants and skirts should be higher in the back and lower in the front; to simulate the seated position.
My message to retailers is that some clothing that’s already in stores can be adapted, but merchandisers need to be educated so they can help customers with disabilities find clothes that are right for them. As an example, the shorter jackets that wheelchair users need are right there on the racks—boleros and swing jackets are perfect.
In continuing to take up the cause of accessible fashion, I’ve launched a petition to the prestigious, invitation-only Council of Fashion Designers of America. In the petition I simply request the CFDA offer a program that teaches designers how to design clothing for people with disabilities.
You can read the petition letter on Change.org here. I’m also asking for help in getting 1 million signatures within one year—we can do this if you sign the petition and send it along to your family and friends.
I created this petition after being inspired by Allana Maiden’s successful petition campaign to Victoria Secret for survivor bras. Allana’s mother is a 21- year breast cancer survivor, who’s undergone a mastectomy and wants more beautiful bra selections. According to ABC news, Allana’s 118,000- signature petition led to a meeting with Victoria Secret, where her and her mother discussed their concerns with executives.
Getting in front of fashion industry executives and helping them understand the issues, so we can make fashion a reality for people with disabilities, will always be the cause at the center of my heart. Can I make it yours, too?