Adaptive Clothing & Disability
When it comes to the difficulties persons with disabilities face, we often think of limited mobility or low self-esteem, among others. What we don’t consider is how some persons with disabilities get dressed in the morning, probably because it’s so mindless for the rest of us. Indeed, some people do struggle with dressing themselves, resorting to sweatpants and loose-fitting shirts as a means to forgo the complexity of using a zipper or fastening buttons. This is where one woman, Mindy Scheier, decided to break from tradition and begin her research into developing adaptive clothing for persons with disabilities. As Mindy’s son, Oliver, was born with muscular dystrophy, she knows first-hand the struggle that is getting dressed in the morning. Let’s take a look at her innovative ideas as solutions to the challenges persons with disabilities face concerning clothes:
- Closures – Buttons, snaps, zippers, and hook & eyes can render some articles of clothing unwearable by persons with disabilities, as these types of closure mechanisms require two steady hands to make work. Scheier experimented with magnetic closures for easier use – just get the two magnets close enough to attract one another and voila!
- Adjustability – Another area Scheier looked to improve was adjusting lengths of sleeves. She drew inspiration for this adaptation from meeting and working with a young girl named Gianna, who had her left forearm and hand amputated. When wearing long sleeve shirts, Gianna’s mother would pay to custom-tailor all her shirts so as to not leave Gianna with a dangling sleeve. Scheier took this one step further and incorporated elastic material into shirt sleeves and pant legs to accommodate for the difference in body shapes.
- Putting on and taking off clothes – Finally, Scheier proposed making shirts with an open back so the wearer goes in arm-first, which is immensely more simple than pull-over shirts. The back fastens with magnets.
For Mindy Scheier, designing adaptive clothing gives her purpose, as she knows she is helping the disability community in her own way. She believes that educating the big clothing companies is a better process for unveiling her products than creating a clothing line of her own. This way, people have options, the same options, as their able-bodied counterparts, which is yet another step toward increasing accessibility in the disability community. Scheier’s clothes also save people time so they can get back to living their lives. It is truly remarkable what Mindy Scheier has done in helping the disability community, and we hope it inspires further change toward a more accessible world.
This post was written by Sperling