Our day job at About Access is all about working towards an inclusive built environment, and we also occasionally pick up on other accessibility issues as and when we come across them.
We were intrigued by an article in The Guardian by Frances Ryan, a political journalist whose specialist subjects include writing about disability issues.
Ostensibly Ryan’s piece is about shopping for clothes. That’s something we address as part of our efforts to improve the design of individual stores, shopping centres and public realm – making it easier for disabled people to go out, browse the racks and shelves and indulge that passion for fashion.
We look at the usual obstacles. Are the streets of a town or city accessible to people who have reduced mobility? Is the signage clearly visible and at a height which enables people to see it and read it? Is there step-free access?
In properties with more than one floor, are there lifts? If so, are they up to standard? Do the premises have accessible WCs? And fitting rooms? Are aisles and check-outs free of obstructions, and wide enough for disabled people to navigate?
It’s the same with online shopping – is the website accessible?
But Ryan’s piece goes further and we’ll admit it raises an issue which we haven’t really considered in detail – what’s the point of dealing with all the accessibility issues in the retail environment if, on arrival at the shop, disabled people can’t find the sort of clothes that they need?
Or, in the words of the headline for Ryan’s piece: “Why are there more clothing lines for dogs than disabled people?”
I’ve got two dogs, and one of them is disabled. They’re not particularly fashion-conscious but they each have a couple of coats to keep them dry in a downpour and warm when it’s freezing. Buying that sort of stuff isn’t a problem.
But Ryan tells the story of Izzy Camilleri, a designer based in Toronto and well-known for her work for such celebs as David Bowie, Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie. Camilleri also worked in the early 2000s for a client who was quadriplegic, an experience which opened her eyes to the fact that existing clothing did not always work for women using a wheelchair.
Camilleri released a range of clothes designed for wheelchair-users and has now come up with the IZ Adaptive range for people with other disabilities. It takes into account fitting, fastenings and other features that all help to make disabled people more comfortable with what they wear.
Mainstream brands are now following Camilleri’s example, and we’re delighted because it demonstrates greater awareness that anticipating the requirements of disabled people and taking action at the design stage – whether with clothing or buildings – can make life so much easier.
Read the full piece here.