Earlier this year, actress Selma Blair revealed she had multiple sclerosis, and that she struggled with putting on the kinds of everyday items most of us take for granted: blouses with buttons, sneakers with laces and pants with zippers. For an Oscars afterparty, she donned a gorgeous gown — accessorized with a cane to help her make her way down the red carpet.
It was the first time many people thought about adaptive fashion, or clothes that disabled people can don without assistance. Yet, it’s a huge market. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one in four Americans has a disability, while the American Institutes for Research estimates their disposable income adds up to $490 billion combined.
“People with disabilities represent the largest minority on our planet,” says Mindy Scheier, founder of Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit devoted to making the fashion industry more friendly toward those with disabilities. “They should have access to mainstream fashion that excites, empowers and includes.”
Things are slowly changing. Tommy Hilfiger, Zappos and Nike have all launched adaptive lines. Schools like Parsons and MIT have opened labs devoted to adaptive design solutions. And more and more disabled people — such as these six stylish locals — are making waves in the industry through advocacy, social media and more.
They’re also happy a Hollywood star is bringing them into the spotlight.
“I think it’s beautiful that someone with Selma’s reach and fan base is being honest about the challenges inherent to traditional clothes,” says Xian Horn, a motivational speaker who has cerebral palsy. “Because it is raising awareness for all.”