Accessible Fashion Tips

By: Julia Hartman

Julia sits in a wheelchair on stage near a mic, smiling.

Please Note: Most of these tips I’ve learned from trial and error, from my own personal experience as a person with a neuromuscular / mobility disability, I’ve also asked a couple of other people with different disabilities what they do to make their wardrobe accessible.  Since every disability is as different as the person with one, these may, or may not work for you.

Tip #1: Pay close attention to the style/design before you buy.

I’m not saying this in terms of keeping up with trends, but sometimes when you buy things, particularly online, you may not realize that the design of the item makes it hard for you to use or wear. An example of this for me is that one time I accidentally bought a jumper that tied in the back. I have Cerebral Palsy, which can make tying things a bit difficult at times, so I try to avoid items that fasten or tie in the back.

Emily Beasley Able SC’s Youth Leadership Coordinator is a person with autism and says if you have autism or any other disability that causes sensory sensitivities to look for clothes with soft fabric and tagless clothes. If you have difficulty with shoelaces, use runner’s laces with elastic pulls or Velcro straps on your shoes.

If you really want an accessory or clothing item you’re not sure is accessible for you, do as much research as possible on the thing you want to buy. After you do that, and you find that it’s still not accessible, you can alter the design or get it tailored.

Cali Sandel, an Independent Living Specialist at Able SC’s Columbia office, is a person with low vision, who says she cuts notches in the tags of her pants that are the same style but different colors, so that she can feel the difference in the tags to tell them apart. Cali also said that people with visual disabilities can also get or make Braille tags labeled with the names of different colors to help organize their clothes.   

 Tip #2: Pay close attention to the packaging.

It helps to look at the packaging of an item before you buy it, to see how easy it is for you to use or open. I occasionally wear makeup, and some types of packaging can make it easier or harder to use different types of makeup. I find it easier for me to use nail polish bottles with small handles and brushes to paint my nails; they’re easier for me to hold without making a mess on my hands. If you buy some makeup and realize that the container is hard for you to hold, try holding it differently. Instead of holding liquid eyeliner pens like a pencil when I use them, I hold them sideways against my eyelid and move the pen tip downwards across the eyelid, while pressing my hand and forehead on a mirror.

 Tip #3: Use assistive technology

There are so many different types of assistive technology to help with different tasks, including getting dressed. From low tech options, like the stretchy elastic shoelaces that I use on some of my sneakers, to higher tech options, like apps for your phone. Cali Sandel mentioned to me that she uses an app, called Seeing AI to help her figure out the colors of clothes, by putting her phone’s camera over the fabric. The app will then say what color the fabric is.

 Tip #4: Ask for advice

You can always ask for advice from friends, family, and the Able SC staff on how to make your wardrobe accessible for you. If you have any of your own accessibility tips for your clothes and accessories, please leave a comment about it.

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