- Disabilities & the Disabled
Clothiong Needs of the Disabled People
Strategies to Design Clothes for the Disabled
A disability is an impairment in the functioning of any one or more organs of the body. This impairment can be cognitive, mental, intellectual, physical, sensory, mental or any other chronic disease. Usually disabled people face three problems: activity limitation, impairment, and/or participation restriction. A disability can occur at the time of birth or it can occur at any other time during life.
Types of Disabilities:
There are various types of disabilities that can cause hindrance for the person to perform his daily activities. These disabilities can be divided into major classes which include:
- Physical Disabilities:
Physical disabilities include physical impairments like immobility, amputees (upper limb disability or lower limb disability), or lack of coordination between different organs of the body.
- Visual Disabilities:
Visual disabilities include impairments like poor vision in day or in night, color blindness, diabetes related eye problems and complete blindness. A large number of people belonging to different ages suffer from these problems.
- Hearing Disabilities:
Hearing disabilities can range from partial deafness to complete deafness. Hearing ad is usually needed in this case.
- Cognitive Disabilities:
Cognitive disabilities are usually related with learning problems as well as with problems in speech. Dyslexia, slow learning and other learning related problems are associated with these disabilities.
- Chronic Diseases:
Few chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, paralysis, and arthritis can also become disability because the patient is unable to perform certain tasks in his/her daily life. Skin problems like eczema and other skin allergies too can become hindrance in performing daily tasks.
- Psychological Disabilities:
Psychological disabilities are another form of disabilities or disorders. They can include patients who are suffering from schizophrenia to multiple personality disorder.
Strategies for Fulfilling Clothing Needs of the Disabled:
Just like the needs and requirements of childhood, youth, adulthood and infancy, disability too has its own unique requirements. These requirements need to be fulfilled in order to satisfy the person with disability. Clothing and food are the two most basic necessities and they should be fulfilled in most satisfying way. Unfortunately when it comes to disabled people little choice is available in the form of clothing. A strategic plan is required in designing clothes for the disabled people.
- Understanding the Disability:
The prior most steps in designing clothes for the disabled are to understand the disability for which the clothes have to be designed; for example, lower limb disabilities require different dresses than upper limb disability; while immobility has its own needs as compared to paralysis or arthritis or any other disability. Therefore understanding the disability is crucial to designing clothes.
There are companies today who offer adaptive clothing but these are only few and only available in few areas.
- Fabric Selection:
Varieties of fabrics are available in the market today ranging from natural to regenerated and synthetic. While selecting fabric for the disabled people comfort and mobility should be the first concern and aesthetics to be the second. Cotton is the fabric of choice for any form of disability or for chronic diseases patients. Cotton is available in so many forms that one can easily select according to the requirements. The most important property of cotton is that it is very comfortable to wear and durable to care. Cotton flannelette is one form of cotton which is soft, durable and warm. It is suitable for people who need clothes that are warmer and softer. People with paralysis or immobility should wear clothes made up of cotton/polyester blended fabric. Cotton/polyester blend is soft, easy to iron, stain resistant, easy to wash and soil repellent too.
- Dyeing and Finishing:
Some dyes may cause irritation and allergies especially synthetic ones. Natural dyes are the best choice to dye disabled peoples clothing but if natural dyes are not available dye selection should be made after knowing about the chemistry of the dye and its effects on the body.
Finishes too on the other hand are synthetic resins and therefore are not very good for patients with allergies like eczema etc. some finishes like crease resistant finishes can make the fabric wrinkle free which can be effective for disabled people especially for those who rarely walk and sit and all the time keep laying down on bed.
Construction of the fabric is another important concern. When adaptive clothing has to be stitched it should be kept in mind that:
- The patient can wear the dress by him/herself and can change it too.
- Doctor can examine the effective area while the dress is on the body.
- Closure and openings are placed in the areas which can be easily handled by the disabled person himself/herself.
- Zippers and Velcro should be used instead of buttons.
- Dress should have to be enough ease allowance for the comfort.
- Pockets should be added in the dress so that the disabled person can place important objects like mobile, glasses or wallet closer to him/herself.
The dress should not only fulfill the functional needs but aesthetic too. A little styling if added will make it much more appealing to wear. By adding collars, pockets, belts, mock buttons, tucks, pleats or gathers the dress can be made much more easy to carry and stylish too. Pullovers, ponchos, and uppers can help hide the disability while they look stylish too.