Adaptive clothing

Fashion, Friendship, and Footloose: a Saga of Clothes, People and Disability

This is a guest post by Author Shivangi Anil. Shivangi is a psychologist by profession and works with young working adults to overcome depression, anxiety, and work towards overall psychological wellbeing. She lives unfazed with her cerebral palsy diagnosis, uses crutches to walk and loves Bollywood! You can reach her at for therapy, trainings, workshops or just a chat about mental health.


People often assume that being disabled only impacts that one ‘defective’ part of your body. I, for example, use crutches to walk. People often take the liberty to either give free medical advice or simplify my impairment, for their ease, comfort, and convenience. An unknown passer-by once took the liberty to comment about how I simply walked slowly. 

Well, auntyji, I wish life was that simple, but it isn’t. Being disabled (which includes physical, visual, hearing, sensory, neurodevelopmental, mental, and other invisible concerns by the way) impacts almost all aspects of our lives. Positively and negatively.

Let’s start with Fashion. My disability impacts my fashion choices too. I can’t waltz into the room wearing a long skirt or a bellbottom. I will forever be worried about tripping over my clothes. To anyone who believes that able-bodied persons and I have the same twenty-four hours. Well, we don’t. Simply because I spend a day every winter getting customized pants stitched and two hours a day in physiotherapy, just to be almost as functional as you. 

In the era before online shopping was a norm, shopping itself was a struggle- I couldn’t fit in with my mum who needed to help me change in those oh-so-tiny try rooms, and barely found clothes despite all the walking to get to the biggest Zara store in town. 

Don’t get me wrong this blog isn’t a sob story about my never-ending fashion woes. Okay, maybe it was. But here are 4 steps brands can take to cater to disabled persons. And oh, we are no small bunch. You are missing out on being able to cater to a very loyal base of 1.3 billion people worldwide. Missing out on every 6th person in the world is surely not good for business. So read along.  

Get a disabled-friendly trial-room: A disabled-friendly try-room is big enough for a wheelchair user to get into (without the push and pull), and has support bars for the person to shift onto a sitting space and an emergency button, to say the least.

Train your staff to support disabled persons: The way the staff in a clothing store stare at my clothes and crutches is a major put-off. Kindly train them on inclusion and sensitivity, helping a disabled person (Pro-tip: Ask before you help us or touch our assistive aids; we don’t need help always and there are things we can do ourselves). Train them in how to help a disabled person dress up without making it awkward as hell. 

Make sure your website is accessible: Online shopping is BAE (Before Anyone Else); there I said it. But not everyone can use every website. Please learn about digital accessibility, image descriptions, screen reader compatibility, and other features. Oh also, have a good return and exchange policy. We might love how something looks on your site but may not be able to wear it. (Returns amazing Mango pants with a heavy heart). Believe me, your business will thank you. 

Design accessible clothing: Ask your designers, suppliers, and the entire chain of command to design accessible clothing. It may look like a shirt with Velcro instead of buttons, Velcro shoes that are not for a child, or pants that don’t have buttons or stretch materials. I can write a million pages but do your research.

But the question is why do we need to dress up at all? Well to go out, shop, and party with friends, just like anyone else. However, friendships aren’t that simple for us either. I have had the best of friends not invite me to a party because they assumed I would be uncomfortable or would not show up at all. Please don’t do that. We party (and drink). Let us decide if we want to make it or not. You will be surprised at the lengths we can go to for an outing if it’s with people that matter obviously. Ask and invite just the way you would do it for anyone else.

Another aspect is that people are curious about disabilities and are worried about how we would react when we are asked about them. I don’t know a single person with a disability who doesn’t want to answer disability-oriented questions – if it’s not the first and only thing you ask us. But if we are friends go ahead and ask away, being ignored hurts a lot more. Talk about other things too, you are missing out on some spicy and fun conversations on hair, Hollywood, horror stories, and handsome men if you have never spoken to me. 

Long story short, behave exactly the way you would behave with anyone else. One odd disability-oriented question can of course lead to some fun conversation. As long as you stay away from ‘you are my inspiration’ and the bravery jingle. Believe me, we have heard of it and are done with it.

Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experiences and may differ from other disabled person’s experiences. This blog is not representative of all kinds of disabilities and is not intended to belittle the fashion industry or any individual person. This piece is intended only to create awareness around disabled lived experiences.

This post is a part of “International Day of Disabled Persons” blog hop hosted by Sakshi Varma – Tripleamommy in collaboration with Bookosmia. #IDPD2022Bloghop. Access all posts of this bloghop at


  1. Loved your perspective Shivani. Please write more on the issues bothering PwD. We know nothing.

  2. So many things we assume we know, but yet so many things about this subject we don’t. Thanks foe this peice.

  3. Such a refreshing read Shivani! Thanks for spelling it out- easy, simple and fun. Wish we could make all aspects of inclusion sound similar.

  4. Shivani let’s collaborate and launch a fashion line and stores, I know nothing abt it so no biases and prejudices, you know a lot so we can work together like a magic team.

  5. Humour-laced take on the very real everyday challenges of people with disability. People first. Disability later. To be fair though, many people simply feel awkward and wonder if asking the person about their disability might be insulting!! If one goes through school without seeing anyone on a wheelchair, they are clueless what to say to someone on one!! Not realising that being on the wheelchair is one part of who they are. Not the whole thing. Perhaps you should consult with a fashion outfit on how to design comfortable stylish clothes for people with motor impairments!!

  6. Shivangi, so glad you wrote this. It has been eye-opening and thought-provoking read. The points you make about how online shopping experiences can be improved for accessibility are excellent – I have for a while been thinking through and reading about how the internet can be designed to be a more inclusive space and yours are indeed some very practical ideas.

  7. Hi Shivangi,
    First of all, it’s an eye-opening post. The more we people starts to generalise things, the greater the percentage of deception and people taking everything for granted. The world is not equal and we have to make sure it’s not equal. That’s when the inclusiveness becomes a more generic term.

  8. Your post reminded me of an SBI bank incident I faced 15 days ago. I had taken my 80 yr old mom to the bank and thhere i saw that theie stairs were so high that she coud not climb without help. Worse was that there was a gentleman trying to come down but he could not. He had someone with him but his right hand was not functional and he was shaky. Looked to be an accident victim. Finally after 3 minutes I volunteered to help him, if he would accept my help. He looked surprised and shocked at the same time. Then i gave him my arm to hold and took the stick from him. He held on to my arms and I walked him down the stairs one by one. He was so grateful that he had tears in his eyes. I took mom up the stairs in the same way. It left me wondering why can’t banks have an entry point which is convenient for the senior citizens and differently abled?

  9. You bring an important and under-rated idea to fous. Its like Sherlock would say “Elementary, my dear Watson!”, but entirely overlooked… My mother underwent a hip surgery 10 years ago, and has not worn a saree since. Her wardrobe is entirely different, also shoes, etc. And when I broke my leg earlier this year it was a struggle to get appropriate clothing. So I totally get what you bring to focus.

  10. Ah Shivangi, such a practical perspective and spot on! The fixes seem pretty straightfoward too, except the will to bring change needs working on. Very often after accidents or illness, leading to semi or permanent change in abilities, the wardrobe undergoes big changes too. My mother, after breaking her hip almost gave up wearing sarees. And when I broke my leg earlier this year and ended up in a cast, my choices were to wear frocks to a nightie! It was really difficult to find clothes which suited my condition, but which i enjoyed wearing as well… Small shifts in design would make such big changes! Thanks for bringing this issue to focus.

    • What a thought provoking article. Sometimes privileges make us so insensitive to the needs of others. Never had i given a thought about this before. Thanks a lot for such an eye opening article. And to make us realize the need of shift in our thoughts and design of the utilities.

  11. I remember my father wearing dhoti and loose pyjamas only, after his paralytic attack while he was on walker and cructches. But now I understand minimum choices are an issue and its not easy. Thanks for sharing this important factor and bringing focus on something that seems not so important to many. In India we need more user friendly stores, railways, cafe, trial rooms etc.

  12. Loved the subtle yet strong criticism in this blogpost; appreciate your topic choice. I, at times, have made some fashion suggestions to my wheelchair using friend that were passively rejected by her. Looking back, I do realise the mistake I made.

  13. There is a lot more that we need to understand about various challenges that people with disabilities face and your post has opened a new angle to give a thought to. Thank you for sharing your experience, it helped me to look life though a different perspective now.

  14. First time got to know about real time difficulties of differently abled. But if accessibility would get better with 1.3 billion in mind. It would be lessening the discomfort for people who really need it.

  15. Hi Shivangi, this article is such a need for awareness. Most of the time, people simply don’t take notice of things. It was actually only upon reading this that I’ve had much though of “oh yeah! where do wheelchair-bound Singaporeans go to shop clothing. It’s not the type of clothes that’s different but how accessible buying one is. I immediately “googled” if there’s such shop here in Singapore and happy to know that there’s two shops that caters this need. P.S. I totally agree with those tiny changing rooms.

  16. Hi Shivangi, this article is such a need for awareness. Most of the time, people simply don’t take notice of things. It was actually only upon reading this that I’ve had much though of “oh yeah! where do wheelchair-bound Singaporeans go to shop clothing. It’s not the type of clothes that’s different but how accessible buying one is. I immediately “googled” if there’s such shop here in Singapore and happy to know that there’s two shops that caters this need. P.S. I totally agree with those tiny changing rooms.

  17. Thanks for a nice perspective about relatively un-touched aspect that could bridge gap

    I loved the no-nonsense one-line advise on how to behave with a differently-abled friend – “Behave exactly the way you would behave with anyone else”

  18. Shivangi you touched a chord as I have a dear friend whose life changed as a young 30 year old woman with a debilitating auto immune disorder. She now runs her own label of accessible clothing. It’s not just about clothes which are easy to wear but it’s also about them feeling good about themselves.

  19. The beauty of this post is that it immediately strikes you how in-equipped our clothing industry and retail industry is to cater to the needs of disabled people. For some reason I feel nobody thinks of giving independence to the disabled people and design things accordingly. We have a long long way in achieving that equity. lovely work. Keep the awesome work going.

    #ContemplationOfaJoker #Jokerophilia

  20. Shivangi, this post throws light on the situation of disabled people. A situation that most, including me, are unaware. I’m so glad you chose to speak about this aspect which is usually considered frivolous, yet it means so much to many of us. A very valid and powerful post. Thanks for enlightening us. Hugs!

  21. Straight forward, funny and thought provoking at the same time! It is sad how even today disabled people face so much discrimination for things as simple as clothes, and are viewed and treated differently for something out of their control. your post really highlights how we should erase the stigma and normalise disabled people’s existence.

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