December 14, 2017 Advocacy, Current Events 0 Comments

Barrier Free Living welcomes Blog contributor Julia Alberino. Julia retired in 2011 after more than thirty years as a health care administrator in both the public and private sectors. She was a frequent speaker at professional conferences, and co-founder of an advocacy group that worked to maintain and improve services for Medicaid beneficiaries, including elderly and disabled individuals.

I’m as far from a fashionista as a person can be.

Since I retired six years ago, my usual attire consists of jeans and a tee shirt.  However, like many in the disability advocacy community, I was excited when the news broke in October that Tommy Hilfiger was going to add a line of clothing for adults with disabilities.

This new collection joined the children’s collection that launched in the spring of 2016 in collaboration with the nonprofit Runway of Dreams (whose motto is: promoting the differently-abled in the fashion industry and advancing the future of adaptive design and innovation.)

The new adult line includes 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles. The clothing features magnetic closures and one-handed zippers; wristbands that enable one to pull up pants with one hand; and openings in pants that make it easy to accommodate braces.

The adaptive clothing is mostly casual, though the women’s and girl’s line include dresses. Prices are moderate for designer clothes. I was puzzled that after the initial press coverage, I had seen very little advertising for what seemed to me a breakthrough in designer clothing and in disability awareness.  Also, at least for now, both the children and the adult lines are available on the website, but not in stores.

I “shopped” the website and invited some friends who have worked or lived  with disabled adults and children, or who have had family members for whom regular buttons or zippers had posed challenges, to do the same and give me their honest impressions.

As I perused the adaptive clothing that was available, I couldn’t help but think how the blouses, with their hidden magnetic closures, would have benefitted my mother in her later years when arthritis made conventional buttons impossible. Making dressing less of a challenge for her would have preserved her sense of independence for far longer.  My reaction was probably typical.

Dorothy from New York City commented on seeing the Tommy Adaptive clothes.

“This is the first time I’m viewing adaptive clothing and I’m impressed. Magnetic buttons and one-handed zippers would give individuals with disabilities more independence and dignity.”  said Dorothy. “Elderly people with severe arthritis in their hands could benefit too. “

Is there any areas for improvement to the innovative line?

There was one thing I had noticed, that also sparked a comment from my friend Jane in Windham.

“The extensive use of magnetic fasteners eliminates people with pacemakers,”  said Jane.

The designer is not unaware of this potential drawback.  A warning is included in the descriptions of the clothes with magnetic fasteners, as follows, “Magnets are safety-tested. If you have a pacemaker, contact your physician before using our product.”

Aside from this, the Tommy Adaptive line seems to me to be a step forward, recognizing that even something so mundane as clothing can be a disability rights issue, but one with a creative solution.

Look for Julia’s regular blog posts here each month. 





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