Included or Excluded? Disability and Fashion



Some important statistics:

"There are over 11 million people with disability in the UK."
"Each day, 180 disability hate crimes are reported in the UK."
"More than 60% percent of people say that they are avoiding the disabled because they don't know how to behave around them."

There's no doubting, that this is a significant number of people, so it's important to discover how they think they are being ignored and what the fashion industry can do to improve their side. It is essential to consider that disabled people feel excluded within society, as they are viewed as different by some people. And the fact that there are hate crimes against the disabled is plain horrific.


The statistic above that many people are not sure how to behave suggests that disabled people are being alienated. It's vital that the fashion industry changes it's ways to make sure that disabled people do not feel othered within the walls of fashion.


Time to think...


So, is the fashion industry part of this statistic? Is the fashion industry ignoring disabilities because they are worried they will make mistakes when trying to cater for their needs? On the other hand, perhaps by including disabled people in their marketing campaigns this shows that the fashion industry genuinely wants to strive towards making improvements to become more inclusive. These are all important questions that need to be considered...


"I've never heard a designer mention how their collection might appeal to someone with limited use of their arms or how a new trouser would work for someone with a prosthetic. I can think of just one or two instances when our seasonal trend report has featured a look worn by a disabled model."

This quote by Emily Farra who wrote an article for Vogue explains the difficulties that disabled people face when trying to interact with the fashion world. They are limited to what clothes they can buy and are disregarded when products are designed or advertised. Fashion is a way of expressing ourselves - a limit on fashion becomes a limit on self-expression. Disabled people need to be included and considered at every step of the process (before a product launches, during a product launch, and after the product has launched).



Positive change


An example of an influencer who is building the bridge between fashion and disability is Aaron Phillips. She's black, transgender, and has cerebral palsy. Would you think that she'd be signed by a renowned agency and be on the cover of Paper magazine in a world that has been consolidated on the norm of a White, size zero "perfect" model? The answer is probably not, but she has!


She has broke down barriers in the fashion world and has used her voice to express her concerns that it is important for the fashion industry to be diverse, but accepts that the industry is work in progress. However, we all have a voice and we should all use it to express our concerns around fashion and disability, regardless of whether or not we have a disability ourselves.


She explained in 2019 that "There's still a great lack of visibility and attention towards people with disabilities in fashion. As of right now, I'm one of two physically disabled models in the entire industry, next to Jillian Mercado."

To some extent the fashion industry is becoming more accepting of disabilities. It's a step in the right direction along with including more plus-size models and people from different ethnic backgrounds in more campaigns and advertising, like Fendi have done. There is still a long way to go though.


All disabled people need to be listened too, appreciated and their needs and wants should be incorporated into all aspects of the fashion world.


It is clear to see from the hate crime statistics that some disabled people are not/do not feel 100% safe within society due to their disability. The fashion industry should be a safe space for people with disabilities to express their ideas and beliefs about what they need. They should feel like their ideas are actively being listened to, and they should be able to use fashion as a tool of self-expression, just like everybody else. The message to take from this is that every effort should be made to include disabled people within fashion and minimise as much exclusion as possible.