Clothes should fit comfortably. They should make you feel great and be easy to put on and take off – perhaps with the exception of quirky fashion styles. Unfortunately, many "off-the-rack" clothes don’t meet these criteria. Those who don’t sport the measurements of the average woman or man find themselves at a distinct disadvantage. This includes people who use wheelchairs and people with restricted mobility, who have trouble putting on a sweater or tying their shoes.
Dressing fashionably is a way of life for many people. A disability should therefore not be an obstacle.
In recent years, the fashion industry has been changing thanks to "adaptive clothing"
Even if they have help, wheelchair users often struggle to get dressed and undressed. Elderly persons know how difficult it can be to tie shoelaces with arthritis in fingers and hands. Resourceful startups and companies have picked up on this and are bringing more and more clothing items on the market that are easier to put on and take off. They even keep up with fashion trends, offering something for every age and every taste. (Click herefor an exciting 2020 interview on "Inclusive Fashion")
Enter the search term "adaptive clothing" in Google and you will get 59,600,000 instant results, which include popular brands and designers. But how does adaptive clothing differ from conventional apparel?
Lucina Zimmermann from Tamonda ® - Senioren & Spezial Bedarf(English: Adaptive Fashion for Seniors and Special Needs) details the challenges wheelchair users face when it comes to conventional clothing: "Conventional trousers are often not long enough and ride up on the leg when seated, exposing the ankle area and socks. This is especially unattractive for senior citizens who must often wear bandages or have swollen legs. Others are sensitive to cold temperatures, causing them to lose body heat faster." We can likely all relate to these issues. Who among us hasn’t been annoyed if the back of your pants moves down and exposes your back or the pant legs ride up when you sit down? This is where clothing manufacturers come to the rescue. They create pants that offer comfort in a seated position, avoid pressure points, and are easy to put on and take off. Flat, no yoke seams or pockets on the back of the pants, extra-long pant legs, wide and easy-to-grasp pull tabs and belt loops and trousers that are cut higher in the back and lower in the front are helpful aspects in this setting. Special zippers and hook-and-loop fasteners also help make dressing easier.
Wheelchair pants have flat seams, are longer in the back than in the front, and have simple closures.
Zimmermann adds, "Wheelchair pants with hook & loop closures on the waistband or bilateral side zippers create a larger opening. The clever modifications make it easier for stiff and paralyzed legs to navigate and enable easy closure." Wearers can put the pants on themselves or with help. "Pants with a wider opening make assisted dressing much easier. Adaptive wheelchair pants are very practical, facilitating easy dressing while lying down or sitting. Simply pull the pant legs up, and place the front panel on the abdominal area, which allows the helper to use the snap closures and overlapping back panels to ensure full coverage. Adaptive clothing is designed to prevent the risk of falls, stress, and physical pain for the patient and protects the assistant from shoulder and back injuries – it’s a win-win situation".
Magnetic closures make dressing easier
Unfortunately, it seems some manufacturers have not yet fully embraced the adaptive clothing concept. Here is a familiar scenario: You find a nice pair of jeans, but you just can't get the button through the tight buttonhole. If healthy hands cannot do this, imagine the struggles of people with restricted mobility in this setting. Meanwhile, things could be so easy. Aside from handy hook-and-loop fasteners, magnetic clasps are likewise a great tool for many garments. Magnetic fasteners make it easier to put on and take off shirts and blouses, for example. These fasteners often look exactly like conventional button closures. A regular button is simply placed over the magnetic snap fastener and – just like that – a garment becomes comfortable and stylish at the same time. You can also close pants via a hook. Cover the latter with a decorative button and the mock fly looks just like a conventional closure.
Needless to say, hook-and-loop fasteners are still a great way to slip into a shoe comfortably. Since they come in a large variety of colors and sizes for both children and adults, it is likely there is a great pair waiting for you out there.
What happens if you find the shoes of your dreams and they come with shoelaces? No worries. QuickShoeLace is the answer to your problem. Taken at REHACARE 2019, our video shows you how the gadget works:
A zipper can be a great alternative to shoelaces or hook-and-loop fasteners. Zippers are especially handy when a caregiver is the one putting on the shoes. Some shoes have zippers that go along the side of the shoe and around the toe, allowing the shoe to be fully unfolded. This makes it easier for adults and children to place their foot inside the shoe and put it on and take it off (independently). One example of this type of shoe that looks just like a regular sneaker is available at Rollimoden GmbH, for example.
Together with the brand JOST, Saljol GmbH has developed a high-quality designer bag for the rollator: The bag combines modern design with a special level of functionality.
Out and about shopping in your wheelchair? Apart from different types of backpacks and side pouch bags that get attached to the wheelchair, you can now enjoy a bag you can easily balance on your legs: Alain Zanchetta has cerebral palsy and wanted a bag he could easily place on his legs to sort through purchases or other items. His solution is a bag with a sturdy bottom and a fastener to attach it to the wheelchair. The bag can also be used by people who don’t use a wheelchair as it comes with a shoulder strap. Inclusive fashion the other way.
These days, anyone who enjoys fashion can find what he/she likes online – even if he/she has specific needs. The search may be more intricate, and the items are possibly more expensive, but nothing is impossible. Hopefully, more and more companies will embrace the inclusive concept, ensuring adaptive clothing will move beyond a handful of specialized companies and enter the fashion mainstream.