We expect fashion to be socially aware and forward thinking. It has the power in its ubiquity to voice issues and change opinions surrounding diversity and inclusion. Why then does it so often shy away from its responsibilities?
When is the last time that you saw people with disabilities included on the catwalk, or featured in brand campaigns, without their disability being the central focus? How many designers with disabilities can you name? And when was the last time you saw a clothing range that considered and catered to disability needs? Or even a mannequin representing an adult of small stature, or someone in a wheelchair? How many stores, even today, have accessibility issues for wheelchair users?
Bringing disability sensitivity to the fashion industry isn’t just about seeing more models with disabilities on the catwalks, or the odd designer who uses a wheelchair. It’s about bringing an understanding of the challenges people with disabilities face on a daily basis in trying to find clothes that are practical and enabling, but that which also allow them to feel attractive and connected to larger society. Are people with disabilities really too imperfect to be allowed access to the perfect world of fashion?
There are over ten million people with disabilities in the UK, and nothing like a representative proportion work in the UK fashion industry, or in media and the arts generally. If they did, then attitudes to disability would rapidly change. We need industry insiders who understand disability, and what disabled people want. Without designers who understand how it feels to be a person of limited stature forced to wear children’s clothes, or a wheelchair or cane user doomed to look dowdy because chair and cane models remain unstylish and old-fashioned, then little changes.
On a brighter note, there are the first flickers of light at the end of this particular tunnel. The young fashion designer Lucy Jones, whose company makes clothing exclusively for people with disabilities, has recently made the Forbes 30 under 30 list, as well as being named Womenswear Designer of the Year. Inspired by a family member with a disability, she conducted focus groups with over a hundred disabled people to ensure her ranges reflected their needs and tastes, and her business goes from strength to strength. Proof, if any were needed, of the power of the disability pound.
For more information on our Disability Awareness e-learning, please use this link… https://www.visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/training/disability-awareness-e-learning/