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By Pam Dewey • supporting people with disabilities, disability advocacy, adaptive clothing, adaptive clothes, adaptive shoes, clothing for people with disabilities, shoes for people with disabilities, clothing that adapts, clothing with magnetic closures, adaptive clothing brands, adaptive shoe brands • October 06, 2022

People with physical disabilities often have different body shapes than those without disabilities. Their arm may end above the elbow, or maybe they don’t have legs. They may also use special equipment like a wheelchair, leg braces or a colostomy bag. Some physical disabilities aren’t visible, but still affect movement, mobility or other senses. 

Adaptive clothing and shoes are created specifically for people with disabilities. If you don’t have a disability, you may not realize the barriers traditional dress has for those with disabilities. Traditional clothing can be uncomfortable, harder — or impossible to put on — and may require modifications to fit correctly.

Here are 4 reasons increased access to adaptive clothing and shoes is important.

More comfortable to wear

Adaptive clothing is designed to make the wearer more comfortable. Pants may have a higher rise in the back, more room in the hip and thigh or no back pockets. This makes pants more comfortable while sitting in a wheelchair. People with sensory sensitivities may have texture sensitivity. Soft fabrics, removing tags and flat seams can also make clothing more comfortable to wear.

Allows more independence

For people with limited mobility or range of motion, buttons and ties can be hard to navigate. That means they might need help getting dressed, but adaptive clothing can change that. In a recent article, Disability Scoop shared that Kohl’s department store just launched an adaptive clothing collection for adults with disabilities, in addition to their adaptive collection for kids. Disability Scoop writes, “All of the pieces are designed to be comfortable and to make it easier for people with disabilities to get dressed independently, Kohl’s said.” Many of these adaptive clothing pieces include magnet closures with faux buttons or Velcro closures. Online retailer Zappos also offers adaptive shoes, which feature Velcro and zippers instead of shoelaces.

Can create acceptance

Wearing fashionable clothing can also create more acceptance. Kern further states, "The importance of having adaptive clothing is something able-bodied people don't really understand…It's not just about putting on a shirt. People start to see you as a person with a sense of style, and it sparks a conversation other than, 'Oh, hey, I like your wheelchair.' Accessible style is like this gateway — to acceptance, socialization, easier employment. Everything." Wearing cute, well-fitting clothing draws attention to something other than a person’s disability. It allows a person with a disability to be recognized as just a person.

Can participate in more social activities

Brain & Life Magazine, the magazine of the American Academy of Neurology, states, “In an online survey, people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers told researchers that a lack of appropriate clothing prevented them from exercising or made it harder to exercise and affected their participation in social activities, relationships, employment, and life events such as weddings that require formal wear.” In the article, Kieran Kern, who uses a wheelchair, talks specifically about the need for fashionable and professional clothes for job interviews, which without access, can hamper people with disabilities from finding jobs. Likewise, not having a dress or a suit that fits properly would prevent many people from attending a wedding. Getting all your clothes tailored is an expensive undertaking, which may not be accessible to some people with disabilities.

More adaptive clothing options ensures people with disabilities have comfortable clothes that also allow them to be more independent. Adaptive clothing can increase social acceptance and participation in social activities. It also saves people with disabilities from making costly alterations to their entire wardrobe.

Here are a few brands that offer adaptive clothing: