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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 ... keep reading »
Two prominent disability organizations responded to the January 5 New York Times Op-Ed by Matthew Daus, a former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission regarding the availability of accessible taxis in New York. I had written a post about the Op-Ed, saying that Daus’s proposed plan — to create a “dial-a-ride” dispatch system run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in lieu of bringing more accessible cabs to the city — would create an unequal access problem and deny people with mobility disabilities the opportunity to do what everyone else can do. I wrote: “The whole point of hailing a cab is to not have to worry about time, location and traffic. You simply go outside when you are ready, hold up your hand (or leg), and hail a cab to the curb. Daus says this luxury shouldn’t apply to people with disabilities, even those who can ... keep reading »
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), the time we reflect on the contributions of workers with disabilities. The focus of the awareness campaign this year is “Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities.” This awareness campaign is often overlooked even though it’s been around since 1988. As I contemplated NDEAM and what it means to me, I immediately thought about clothing. How great it will be to someday be able to discuss new mainstream designers who have started designing and selling clothing for people with physical disabilities. And that’s when it hit me, why wait for someday when this problem can be solved today with pre-sold, crowd sourced designer capsule collections! The designer capsule collection is to the fashion industry what the fast acting gel capsule is to pain. It’s a way to quickly normalize designing for and marketing to the fashion consumer with physical disabilities. Earlier this year Derek ... keep reading »
Amid a new Fast Company report of American companies that “get” innovative design are a handful of manufacturers whose wares vastly improve the lives of people with disabilities. It is marvelous to see these products get their due. The collection of superbly designed goods is considered so iconic, Fast Company sketches them as ice-blue abstract illustrations – you can distinguish each product simply by their cool aesthetics, sleek lines, or sexy shape. But never mind sexy. Fast Company says these goods are “pragmatic,” with pure usability and “marketplace appeal” built into them. They are the result of a breakthrough by American innovators who realized that making high performing and expertly designed products that “focus more on the needs of real consumers” can enhance profits and drive customer loyalty. Glimpses of universal design principles sparkle in many of these goods. Universal design is the idea that products and places should be made for use ... keep reading »
In a nod to National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, Starbucks will feature refillable Braille cards. The card features an autumn leaves theme and will have the word “Starbucks” embossed in Braille at the top. This is a fantastic way to raise awareness for the Department of Labor’s annual employment campaign, and one that actually helps people who are visually impaired. Braille users can “feel” for their card in their wallets, without wondering if they took out a Dunkin Donuts card by mistake. Since the card is refillable, if I were a Braille user I’d scoop up a bunch of these. The question is, where? The local Starbucks I work out of in Stamford, Conn., unfortunately doesn’t have the Braille cards yet. The staff, who are super friendly, seemed a little uneasy when I asked about the cards. One barista said she had “heard about them but doesn’t ... keep reading »
Recently, on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), the Queen of talk shows crowned not one, but two winners in her reality-show competition, “Your Own TV Show.” The winners are Kristina Kuzmic-Crocco and Zach Anner. Anner is a comedian and writer who has cerebral palsy, a condition involving the brain and nervous system.. His show, “Rollin’ Around the World with Zach Anner,” which will premiere this summer, will be a game-changer in the fight for equality among people with disabilities. Having lived with cerebral palsy for his whole life, the 26-year-old Anner, who uses a power wheelchair for mobility, will focus his show on how he manages unexpected challenges when traveling. Sparse selections for wheelchair users As part of their prize, Kuzmic-Crocco and Anner each received $100,00 from Kohl’s, which sponsored the contest. I’m hoping that this “prize” will bring attention to the plight of fashion consumers with disabilities. While Kuzmic-Crocco, who is ... keep reading »
As a stylist it’s my job to follow trends in fashion for people with disabilities, but in this segment of the fashion industry rarely do I get a chance to highlight trendsetters. Izzy Camilleri is the trailblazer behind the industry altering designs of IZ Adaptive. IZ Adaptive is the most appealing line of clothing for wheelchair users I’ve seen in the 18 years I’ve followed this industry. Her attention to design detail, merchandising, and pricing, partnered with the classic look of her line, truly sets her apart. In my opinion IZ Adaptive has changed the landscape of fashion, as we know it. I can say without hesitation that Izzy’s ingenuity has catapulted, fashions for wheelchair users into another stratosphere. There are several reasons why I luv IZ Adaptive: 1. I luv Izzy’s approach to design. She spent time with, listened to, and got to know her consumer. 2. I luv that IZ ... keep reading »
Dr. Katherine Carroll has a unique philosophy on fashion apparel. She believes “intelligent clothing design” can improve the health and quality of life for all people, including people with disabilities — and has done the research to back it up. An assistant professor at the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University, Carroll is now advising the fashion industry on cost-effective, practical ways to embrace consumers with physical disabilities. Q: Dr. Carroll, how did you get involved in studying the technological and societal impact behind fashion? A: My research work in textiles during my Master’s Degree work [at Michigan State University] was mainly in the historic area. I was very interested in the types of clothing that women wore to work in the 19th century, when working outside the home first became acceptable. When I started my PhD [at Virginia Tech], I became interested in Universal Design (UD). I was making ... keep reading »
If you are a woman with paraplegia determined to look fashionably chic this year, you are not alone! Here are eight tips for dressing with style, and looking slimmer while you’re doing it. 1. Buy a better fitting bra. If you are a woman with paraplegia, a properly fitting bra will not only provide support and comfort, it will help define your waistline. Before going to your favorite lingerie store, call several stores to find a Certified Bra Fitter (CBF). The bra fitting process is the same for women with and without paraplegia. The CBF will measure the band width and cup size of the bra to determine the best fit. It is best to schedule an appointment for uninterrupted personalized customer service. Note: Take your favorite bra with you to the appointment, to compare it with the bras pulled by the CBF. Also beware of the ... keep reading »
Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri has created haute couture clothing for decades. She has recently taken her talent in a brilliant new direction. Izzy is the brainchild behind IZ Adaptive, the adaptive clothing collection for people with physical disabilities who use wheelchairs. Ultimately, Izzy would like to make dressing easy and enjoyable for all people with physical disabilities. Q: Izzy, what made you transition from designing haute couture to designing adaptive clothing? A: With the downturn of the economy, and the fashion business being very tough in Canada, I had to make some changes. I love fashion and I wanted to continue designing, but I also wanted my future endeavors to be more meaningful. During this time I was asked to design a cape for Barb Turnbull, a journalist at a major Canadian newspaper. Barb has a physical disability, [a type of paralysis known as] quadriplegia. Working with Barb ... keep reading »