Have you ever thought about what it’s like to live with a disability? Have you really thought about it? People who live with disabilities have to find creative ways of performing everyday tasks, such as opening a door, pouring their own cereal, or putting on pants. The fact that these ordinary things are sometimes a struggle is something most of us never think about.
One of my kids was born with a hand deformity which, on the surface, doesn’t slow him down at all. But, he’s 7 now and as he gets older, I am noticing more and more how he has difficulty with things I would never perceive as being a challenge. Things like, using a pepper mill, gripping a really large hamburger, and buttoning a shirt. Seeing the world through his eyes has opened my eyes in countless ways, giving me insight to life with disabilities that an average person might not possess.
I don’t focus on what my limb difference kid can’t do. I help him find ways to do what he wants to do and needs to do. Sometimes I push him to do for himself when he’d rather rely on my two hands. I thought I was pretty savvy and sensitive of what life with a disability looked like, but I watched a video this week that opened my eyes to something that might be inaccessible, or at the very least, limited for individuals with disabilities: fashion.
Seriously, have you ever thought of fashion being off-limits or different for people with disabilities? My limb difference kid struggles with buttons. He’s a kid, so it’s not a big deal for his mom to button his shirt. But when he’s older, is he going to choose clothing based on how easy it is to get in and out of versus whether or not it’s what he wants to wear or should wear? Seriously, is he going to one day wear a polo shirt with a suit jacket because buttons are too difficult?
Enter Runway of Dreams.
Runway of Dreams was founded in 2014 by Mindy Scheier, a fashion designer and a mother to a child with a disability. Scheier would dress her son Oliver for school in sweat pants because they were easy to maneuver over his leg braces.
It was a great solution, until her 8-year-old came home from school and announced that he wanted to wear jeans. His friends wore jeans and he wanted to wear the same things that other kids were wearing. Makes total sense, right? We all want to belong.
The problem was that jeans didn’t fit over his leg braces, and that right there was Scheier’s aha moment: “I’m a fashion designer and I can make this work.”
And so she did. And she didn’t stop there. She realized that if she was struggling with access to fashionable adaptive clothing, then other parents were, too.
This video captures snippets of life of four people who have been impacted by Runway of Dreams. In many ways, their lives are ordinary, but this video shows how the extraordinary vision behind this project impacts real people in a way many of us have probably never considered. Grab some tissues because this will make you cry in a happy way.
Today, Runway of Dreams is a twofold operation. The business side focuses on working with clothing manufacturers to educate them about what adaptive clothing needed to be. The Runway of Dreams toolkit for brands focuses on three components: adjustability, waistbands, and how to get in and out of the clothing. Features such as side openings in pant legs and magnetic buttons (that look like regular buttons on the outside) are used to make adaptive clothing look like … well, any other clothing.
And that’s pretty much the idea, right?
Thanks to Runway of Dreams, clothing lines such as Tommy Hilfiger now include a collection of adaptive children’s wear. The clothing looks like the rest of the line, but include features that make the clothing easy to take on and off for people with disabilities. And Tommy Hilfiger adaptive clothing looks like Tommy Hilfiger clothing, because that’s what it is.
Thanks to Runway of Dreams, other clothing manufacturers will follow. The company’s vision includes making lines of adaptive clothing available in department stores alongside the standard lines. And why not? We have plus size, petite, and big and tall. Why not adaptive? Why shouldn’t I be able to go into a department store and buy a fashionable shirt with magnetic buttons?
I say it’s about time.
I hope major clothing lines are paying attention, because right now this mom of a limb difference kid wants to go out and buy Tommy Hilfiger’s inventory for all of my family members. This spirit of inclusion is huge for a child who stands out when he might just want to fit in and wear what everyone else is wearing. It’s also huge for the parents making the purchasing decisions.
And it gets better.
Runway of Dreams also has a nonprofit arm that provides scholarships for individuals with disabilities who want to pursue careers in fashion, design, or manufacturing of adaptive clothing.
It’s time for inclusion and acceptance everywhere — and the fashion industry is no exception.