Is the Fashion Industry Inclusive Towards the Needs of Disabled People?



"You think you just know what disabled people need or want, instead of asking us." - Sinéad Burke


Did you know, in the UK alone, almost 20% of adults of working age are disabled. That's quite a lot of people, right? So, what is the fashion industry doing for this 20%, you say?


Hardly anything, really.


For the longest time, disabled people have often been excluded from the conversation of fashion. This is mainly due to the fact that within brand marketing, such as promoting fashion brands and advertisements, almost none of them include a person with a disability. We have only just stepped up to being inclusive for all body-types, so who knows how much longer the fashion industry will take to feature more inclusivity towards disabled people in their branding and marketing advertisements.


After all, disabilities can come in all kinds of forms, and often demand specific clothing needs, such as an adjusted size or fit of clothes. And whether it's down to poorly designed stores, lack of education in staff training, or just simply not offering clothing products that are disabled-friendly, retailers and high-end stores are excluding one in five people in the UK who may have a disability or impairment - which also means that they will miss out on a potentially huge profitable income.


So, is the fashion industry really that inclusive towards the needs of disabled people? Thankfully, signs of these deep-rooted prejudices around disability are finally beginning to come to an end.


ASOS, and it's wheelchair-friendly jumpsuit


Everyone (hopefully) already knows of ASOS - one of the biggest online fashion and cosmetic retailers in Britain. Founded in the year 2000 by Nick Robertson, the website has a revenue of £3.26 billion (yes, billion) pounds from last year alone, and has over 4,000 employees. And since it came into our lives, the online retailer has tried its best to be inclusive to all of the people in the UK - like the disabled.


As a result of this goal, ASOS has been one of the few brands within the UK that has managed to be inclusive towards people with disabilities; with the launch of its wheelchair-friendly jumpsuit last year.

ASOS worked with GB Paralympic Chloe Ball-Hopkins to create a fashionable and practical jumpsuit that could be worn by everyone (inclusivity, people!), whether they are succumbed to a wheelchair or not. This was absolutely huge for the fashion industry, and really made a splash in the disabled community who finally felt like their voices were being heard and not pushed to the back to be forgotten about. That is what is important in making clothes accessible for every type of person - letting them know that they're not being ignored, and that they're included within society.


Tommy Hilfiger's adaptive clothing for both adults and children


Another admirable fashion retailer that extended their inclusivity was the works of the high-end, designer brand, Tommy Hilfiger; who created a fashion line that made it accessible for both disabled adults and children to wear the clothes.

Ultimately, this shows other retailers that even at both ends of the fashion spectrum, whether it be high-end or low-end, it's almost always possible to cater to a wide audience that often gets forgotten about.


Tommy Hilfiger's range includes clothes with one-handed zips, (amazing), extended openings (also, amazing), and adjustable waists (do I really need to say it again?) - all of which maintain the original style of the brand. Tick, tick, tick!


The key for Tommy Hilfiger was involving the disabled community from the very start of the production of the range, all the way to the initial design stage, and then right through to the marketing of the ranges. Which is what we need more of in the fashion industry - actually incorporating ideas and thoughts from the community in which they're aiming to cater for. How else are fashion brands and industries going to be successful in being inclusive?


So, to answer the question whether the fashion industry is being more inclusive towards the needs of disabled people, I would say yes.


But...


There are still so many more brands and designers out there that are still holding back from allowing their clothes and brand to cater to the community of the disabled and impaired.

And once brands realise this, not only will they become richer for including the community due to incoming profit, but they will also be making millions of people's lives easier by helping to make society a better and less prejudiced place to live in.