Clothing and fashion

Looking stylish and feeling great

A 2010 study into the needs of people with spinal cord injury (SCI) discovered that finding suitable clothing was a big issue for people sitting in wheelchairs. Not only was it hard to find items that were easy to put on and which sat correctly, it was almost impossible to find clothing that looked good. The study found that, “The needs of people with an SCI were not being met by current available and affordable clothing solutions and that clothing design overlooked key concerns.” 10 years on however things have improved and being a wheelchair user now doesn’t exclude you from being a favourite in the fashion stakes. Gone are the times when one became almost resigned to wearing nothing but track pants and sweat shirts – not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with that! But the good news is that there are now far more clothing choices available that are functional and which look great. Everyone likes to feel positive about themselves and wearing clothing that’s stylish and fashionable can go a long way to boost your confidence and self-esteem.

The disability market and fashion industry – what’s the state of play?

Fashion is a $1.2 trillion global industry, with more than $250 billion spent on fashion every year in the United States alone. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 billion people – some 15 per cent of the world’s population – have a disability of some kind and of those, nearly 200 million grapples with impaired functionality. That’s a whole lot of people looking for clothing that can meet their unique requirements.


So, what can we do to make a difference?

As we know the disability voice is strong, loud and persistent. Runway of Dreams founder, Mindy Scheier, began designing for people with a disability when her son Oliver, who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, wanted to wear jeans to school just like his friends. Let’s be inspired by her belief that, “One day adaptive clothing will be in the mainstream.” Let’s do everything in our power to make this happen!

Where to buy mainstream and adaptive clothing?

If you can access the store in your wheelchair, get out there and see what you can find as quite often, clothes can be worn straight off the rack or will only require a minor alteration (see on this page below for helpful hints). Or if you prefer to shop from the comfort of your own home there are now multiple options to shop online for adaptive clothing.

To help you we have searched the Internet and have gathered together designers who are making adaptive clothing to suit all of your needs. Check them out and we would love to hear about your experiences or if you have come across a new designer let us know so we can add it to the collection.

Keeping up to date with happenings in the adaptive clothing space

Today, more and more designers are getting into adaptive clothing and the last couple of years in particular has seen a rise in conversations where “fashion” and “people with disability” appear in the same sentence. People with a disability are increasingly seen on the catwalk and in 2016 Tommy Hilfiger became the first major fashion designer to launch a line specifically with their needs in mind.

To keep yourself on top of what is happening in the adaptive clothing space, read the articles we have found, and we are constantly monitoring the “airwaves” to add to the conversation so if you came across a great article, we would love to hear about it and will add it to the library. To see what we have collected so far please visit our SCIA Resources Hub to read more about clothing and fashion.

Some helpful hints for altering your existing clothing for a better fit and comfort

  • Get a slit made up the sides of tops and shirts for a smoother fit over the hips or if it is a jacket put the slit up the back of the jacket, much like a riding jacket.
  • Purchase longer pants than you used to.
  • Use Velcro, buttons or press studs to attach your shirts to your pants (waistband, belt loops or wherever convenient and concealed) to stop them from riding up through the day.
  • Replace the seam on your long pants with Velcro for easy access to your leg bag.
  • Insert an additional zipper or Velcro at the side or seam of your long pants and/or dresses and skirts for easier dressing.
  • Remove back pockets from jeans.
  • Incorporate concealed paneling into the clothing to cover a leg bag.
  • Remove front pocket buttons, replace closure with Velcro and sew the button back on for decorative purposes.
  • Eliminate the need to tie/untie shoelaces by using elastic or permanent laces.
  • Sew elastic or drawstrings around the insides of jumper cuffs for additional warmth.

For further information

For further information visit the SCIA Resource Library