Accessibility Meets Fashion In Clothing Identification Solutions
Improving accessibility for blind and visually impaired (B&VI) people is a critical and ongoing process. Thanks to my role in Bold Blind Beauty, I have participated in many research projects on the topic of accessibility. The most recent ‘creating accessible makeup packaging for (B&VI) people’ was so exciting I could barely contain myself. Exchanging ideas and coming up with novel approaches to creating more accessible makeup is huge. What this means, in a nutshell, is we are moving in the right direction.
So a few days ago, I was thrilled when Faye, contacted me. Faye, a recent fashion and textile designer graduate, working on her Master’s dissertation asked if I could put feelers out in my network. She needs to collect anonymous data to move forward with the project.
What was interesting to me is Faye’s reason behind her research. I found out her passion for her work was borne as a result of her mom’s chronic illness. Her mom wanted to look beautiful even when she was at her worst. What influenced Faye to make a difference was her mom’s clothes didn’t last long because of her disability.
Hi, my name is Faye and I’m a mature Masters student from the University of Portsmouth. I am writing a paper to identify areas that need improvement in the clothing identification of (B&VI) people. Creating digital labeling solutions will follow. I am looking for participants to complete my survey or just to comment. This will help me understand the processes and what people actually want to know about their clothes for easier identification. The data will be transferred into the labels.
Directing Your Show: Where Fashion & Disability Meet
“How we are perceived is determined by how we present ourselves. We direct our own show.”
~George Rector, Popping Wheelies
Introduction: Today I’m thrilled to present to you a friend and fellow warrior, George Rector of Popping Wheelies. Like many of you I’ve befriended, I met George through blogging and found we have some shared interests. One of these interests is our passion for inclusion in the world of fashion for those of us living with disabilities. ~Steph
Disability, Fashion, Style & Confidence
The elephants in my room are paraplegia and the ever-present wheelchair. The disability in my life is Multiple Sclerosis. The important things in my life are my family and friends.
When I first had to use a wheelchair, a nurse told me that she was confident I’d quickly learn how to make it enhance my life. As a Peer Counselor/Peer Support Volunteer, I have talked about embracing whatever piece of technology works for us. “If it makes your life better, don’t be afraid to use it.”
How we are perceived is determined by how we present ourselves. We direct our own show. What are we going to show to the public? Of course, they are going to look at our white canes, our wheelchairs, our crutches, but then they are going to look at us.
This is where disability meets fashion. Where disability meets style. Fashion makes the first impression; style makes the lasting one. It is style that determines how we perceive ourselves, and it determines how we are received in public. They are vital to the person who has a disability.
Your Life, Your Production
I am interested in both men’s and women’s fashion. And style. Lots of designers are men. My personal style is simple, basic design with classic colors. If we pick a style that fits our personality and then stick to it, things get easier to manage. What works with your skin and hair color? What works with your daily activities? I am learning to stick with combinations of blue, green, and white. They fit my personality and with my light skin, blue eyes, and blond hair.
My advice is to think about our interests, think about ourselves, and stick with it. I’m getting better at it. I gave away half of the things in my closet and still have twice what I need.
And if you are wondering where I fit into the Bold Blind Beauty Community, I am a “retired” eye doc due to MS. Vision is my training and experience, but I am also a patient. Vision and MS are closely related. I am extremely light sensitive and have a tint for every need. I select a tint based on what I am doing and not by what I am wearing. While my distance vision is good, I have difficulty reading. For that, I have specific reading glasses, enlarge the print on my Kindle, and change its illumination.
Fashion, style, confidence. You can direct your show about how you feel and how others feel about you. And remember that the best fashion accessory is a genuine smile.
Directing Your Show Featured Image Description:
George is sitting on a wooden bench with his left leg propped atop his wheelchair which is next to the bench. He is wearing a green tee paired with khaki shorts and flip-flops. A camera is around his neck and he’s sporting sunglasses. In the background are lush green tropical plants.
Image 1: George is sitting on a wooden bench at Flagler Beach. He is smiling for the camera wearing a yellow tee, dark sunglasses, and minimal jewelry. In the background, waves are washing up against the beach and a pier is jutting out into the ocean.
Image 2: In this photo, George is looking stylish in a short-sleeved black dress shirt and black pants. He is sitting on the arm of a sofa and his gold necklace and bracelet are nice accents.
“Create inclusion – with simple mindfulness that others might have a different reality from your own.”
Recently Steph was asked to take part in a project on the accessibility of online fashion shopping. Collette Costello, creator of Kiku Girl Accessibility Fashion Technology Blog spoke with Steph and two others for comments. From the responses she received, Collette made a video on what makes a good inclusive online shopping experience.
Collette: My blog and Kiku Girl You-Tube Channel are about making the future of fashion and wearable technology more fun and accessible to young people. I started by looking at new technologies like 3D printed dresses and machines that fold your clothes for you. When I recognized a gap, I began to focus on how to make the world of fashion more inclusive by using technology. Ultimately a more inclusive fashion environment will lead to improving the online shopping experience for everybody.
Abby: I noticed on your ‘About‘ page that you educate women interested in STEM. What was the driving force behind your decision to work with this particular group?
Collette: I’ve spent many years working in and lecturing about the fashion industry with an interest in the future of fashion and wearable technology. I found many of the designs for fashion technology clothing are not fashionable. There seemed to be this divide between the technology people and the people most interested in fashion—young women. This is because lots of young women don’t choose STEM careers and are more interested in creative subjects. I wanted to show that fashion technology could be fun, exciting, and inspiring. Should they desire, they could have a future career in STEM.
Inclusion In Fashion & Beauty
Abby: Historically the beauty and fashion industries are not inclusive. Have you noticed a shift in how these industries are looking at people with disabilities (PWDs) as a market segment?
Collette: The fashion industry is all about making money with mainstream products, and advertisements. The majority of which target the masses, not the individual. We’re beginning to see more niche markets with PWDs included in fashion advertisements. While this still more about making a statement, meanwhile, a quiet revolution of ordinary people is occurring. Beauty and fashion bloggers living with disabilities are defining what it means to have an interest in fashion and beauty.
A big issue is the more specialised an item of clothing the more expensive it is to make. With technological advancements such as 3D printing, it’s becoming cheaper to make more personalised products. Because of this, we may see more fashion items for PWDs in the future.
Technology In The Lives Of PWDs
Abby: Technology is making a dramatic improvement in the lives of PWDs. Do you envision more employment opportunities within the field of fashion for PWDs because of some of the technological advances?
Collette: The focus at the moment is more about what fashion technology can do, like your bracelet turning into a phone. I began to feel the needs of the consumer were being compromised because everyone was so focused on the future. They weren’t looking at how the technology we have now can be used to benefit the user. This is the reason I made the “How Accessible is Fashion Shopping On-line?” video to highlight this issue.
I see accessibility as being the future of technology and it is this which I think will create employment opportunities for PWDs within fashion. Imagine PWDs working with fashion companies to make sure their websites, shops, and products are accessible and usable. Also, I think companies will gain a better understanding of disabilities and break down some of the prejudices around the hiring practices of PWDs.
Fashion Resource Recommendations
Abby: Can you recommend a few fashion resources for PWDs such as books, websites, designers, etc.?
Collette: A great blog that is giving style and beauty advice in the form of podcasts is Inclusive Style, they are pioneers in this area as I have never heard an audio fashion blog before. Blue Badge Style is another blog dedicated to highlighting accessible venues and products that are also stylish and fashionable. Open Style Lab is an organisation that design innovative clothing personal to each person’s disability, projects include speakers built into clothing to help people with speech problems, other ideas are using conductive fibers so wearers can control their wheelchairs by touching their pocket.
Abby: Thank you, Collette, for stopping by and taking the time to chat with me.
Inclusive Online Shopping Featured Image Description:
The image is twelve online shopping cart icons in various shades of blue and green. Each of the icons are square, circle and hexagon shaped.
The image is a simple black and white photo of a silver key approaching a black keyhole.
I wrote the following lightly edited article for VisionAware.org. (B&VI stands for blind & visually impaired).
Editor’s Note: The week of March 11 was World Glaucoma Week. Peer advisor Steph McCoy, Founder, and CEO of Bold Blind Beauty, has written eloquently about her journey with this eye condition. As a real fashionista, in this post, she shares her thoughts on fashion trends, an important topic as Spring approaches.
Does Loss of Vision Equal Frumpy?
There’s a misconception that sight loss equals frumpy and unfashionable. Likewise, there’s a silent societal expectation where people with sight loss shouldn’t be fashionable.
The truth is, there are people with sight who either aren’t interested in or have a lack of fashion sense. Also true, there are people who are blind or have sight loss, and they love fashion.
Thankfully, maintaining a sense of style and keeping a finger on the pulse of trends isn’t wholly reliant on eyesight. Like anything else, we can continue to enjoy and immerse ourselves in the world of fashion if we desire.
While the fashion industry still has a way to go where inclusion is concerned, the Internet has improved access to information. The Internet has made it possible for individuals with disabilities to become mouthpieces for change.
Fashion Trend Resources with Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired In Mind
Today, there are many blind and visually impaired fashion content creators with plenty of room for more. With this in mind, here are few tips to help a person who is blind or visually impaired remain connected to fashion.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
When you know your style, stick with it.
Keep it simple and classic.
For trendsetters, taking risks is part of the fun in fashion, continue doing what you do.
Expand Your Fashion Resource Network
Follow and engage with fashion bloggers, vloggers, and writers. You can find them on blogging platforms, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
Read about and discuss the latest trends, styles, and seasonal colors with friends who have similar tastes and interests.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone you trust who will give you honest feedback.
Testing new looks? Take photos and share with your trusted online community or friends and family for feedback.
Easy Low Tech Fashion Resources
QVC does a remarkable job in describing their merchandise. Following is a small sampling of their fashion segments.
Morning Q Live – Style Edition
Amy’s Closet (Amy Stran)
Denim & Co.
Susan Graver Style
Seek Professional Assistance
Professional consultants develop in-depth personal profiles to suit individual needs
Personal Shopper/Styling Service
As blind and visually impaired people, we face our share of barriers. We are not what’s happened to us, and we have the power of choice. Thankfully, we can choose how to move forward with our lives and allow fashion trends to play a role.
Fashion Trends Featured Image Description:
Tri collage of “yours truly” posing in front of my counter with my white cane wearing a black off the shoulder choker top, white jeans, black suede chunky high heels and silver jewelry.