Tommy Hilfiger’s recent launch of Tommy Adaptive - a clothing range for people who find dressing a challenge - has been a big success. Now with Nike’s Go Fly Ease range of easy access footwear also in high demand, more and more manufacturers are looking at clothing for people with a disability as a growth area to be taken seriously.
It’s estimated that one in five people have difficulty dressing, so there is a significant untapped market for mainstream fashion brands to explore. Many of the solutions are simple; magnetic closures, zips instead of laces, Velcro fastenings or the addition of more ergonomic tags. The cut of clothes can also have a significant impact, such as higher waistbands at the rear of trousers for wheelchair users who need their clothes cut to fit someone in a sitting position. In many ways, the big brands can take advantage of the hard work undertaken by people with disability, parents and carers over many years.
But for some more complex needs, with the small market potential and some persistent stigma, it’s unlikely that we will see high street brands moving into the sector any time soon. Incontinence and menstruation may be difficult issues to address, but finding the right solution can be life-changing.
Support Coordinator Jennifer Byrne shares her experience, and what she looks for in a supplier.
“For some clients it can be a hard conversation to start. I had one client requiring menstruation support - her carer identified in advance that this young person has sensory issues with wearing underwear and that we needed a solution for when she started her period so we asked a specialist supplier who came up with a range of solutions.”
There are always challenges to work through, as Jennifer describes.
“As these are products for children, sizes change often, and this can be difficult to keep on top of when it comes to funding. It’s also good to have a selection of options available for the client to choose from. In this case, the client is using menstruation suits with the zipper towards the front, because she wanted them that way.”
Companies like Sydney-based Night and Day offer a personalised service, enabling solutions to be tailored to the individual. This means offering a range of options, from the location of zips and fastenings to the choice of colours. Finding a good supplier who is prepared to work through different issues and happy to provide samples can make all the difference.
For Occupational Therapist Nicole Franklin, the issues are usually addressed as part of an initial Occupational Therapy assessment, as she explains.
“We discuss the client’s functional capacity in all steps of toileting, any aids or equipment required and the level of support needed. This screen supports ongoing collaboration and discussions to problem solve the barriers identified.
Whilst these areas can be difficult to manage and hard conversations to have, I have found that clients and carers are open to discussing this as it has such a big impact on a daily basis. I find a holistic approach helps in addressing these more sensitive areas as it allows us to also focus on what the client likes, what is important to them and we can link this into addressing concerns with toileting and menstruation.”
“I found Night and Day to be incredibly professional, client centred and caring. They are willing to think outside the box and customise items which is really helpful in providing support to our clients to meet their needs.”
The role played by specialist manufacturers is really important when it comes to meeting a participant’s needs and wishes. With other solutions now appearing in the collections of mainstream labels too, it’s clear that the range of options is improving.
Now, if we could just get more people with disabilities on the catwalk…
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