Category Archives: Challenges of Being Disabled

Disability In Fashion: Where Is It?

Disability in the fashion industry: where is it?

Back in 1998 Alexander McQueen was the first designer to introduce disability in the fashion industry, Amy Mullins a double amputee athlete wore a pair of hand carved prosthetic legs.
and strutted her stuff on the catwalk.
It was seen as a ground breaking moment, an industry renown for it’s lack of diversity and inclusivity were now changing the tide. Disabled people everywhere thought this could be the turning point for fashion and disability.

It’s been almost 20 years and yet here we are, a community of 13 million people with the spending power of £80 Billion still being left behind.

I’m happy to see that disabled people have been showcased as beautiful, bold and have a passion for fashion with more recent designers including disabled models in London, Italian and New York fashion week, adorning the catwalk, but we still have a long way to go.

Where are the models of diversity in our high streets?
Where are the designers creating comfortable yet stylish clothes for persons in a wheelchair?

Recently Nike released a new line of shoe designed to fit the feet of those with limited mobility in their joints, however this campaign only came about because a young boy with cerebral palsy wrote to them asking for a pair of shoes that he could wear and look good in.

Having a disability doesn’t automatically mean that style and sexiness goes out of the window.Every person has a right to look glamorous and feel physically comfortable doing so.

“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” Miuccia Prada

Fashion has a significant influence in today’s society, magazines, social media, television and online, it’s everywhere you look.


“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” Oscar Wilde

Celebrities campaign for, and in some cases against fashion, in the case of Elton John and D&G.
Influence has power, and power directed in a positive way can have a profound and long lasting effect.
So why aren’t celebrities and designers coming together and campaigning for an inclusive world? It’s not like they don’t have the means or motivation, money and influence; two things that make the world what it is today.

Designers should be creating the clothes, models of disability should be showcasing the collection, and celebrities should be shouting from the rooftops about diversity and inclusion.

Clothes are designed for the tall upright able bodied person who walks to and from work. But what happens when that same gentleman sits down at his desk? His trousers rise above the ankle, and his shirt feels taut on his arms when he is typing at his desk.

Now imagine that same gentleman as a person who uses a wheelchair? His strength and mobility may be strained meaning that he cannot roll up his shirt sleeves , so he has to deal with the irritation of stretched material over his arms,


“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.” Alexander McQueen

There are many talented individuals who have created their own clothing line,wearable shoes and customisable accessories for aids, just to name a few.
However it shouldn’t be left to an individual to have little to no access to fashion that they need to design their own.
I want to see a world where a wheelchair user can go to a high street store, be able to navigate adequately, see a mannequin that represents them, and pick clothes off the rack that will make them look and feel great.
I want to see a world where disability is embraced the way race, religion and culture are.

I want to see a world where models of disability are seen as equal partners, and not a story of inspiration or pity.

I want to see a world where fashion and disability collide and make magic, standing united, coming together and create a long-lasting partnership

“Real fashion change comes from real changes in real life. Everything else is just decoration.” Tom Ford.

“This blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organized by CGTrader

Embrace The Cane

Embrace The Cane!

Last week I filled out the fab VIP Daily living tag. Created by Holly and Elle and Within this tag a question I answered I talked about how I embraced my cane after feeling self conscious.

I also have been talking to a lovely guy, and a similar conversation arose so I thought I would give a more in-depth story of how I embraced my cane.

I first had cane training lessons when I attended a specialised college for the blind. My sight was deteriorating, and after speaking with my Mum about it, she suggested getting in touch with the mobility department and asking for cane training encase I needed to use one in the future.
And that’s what I did.

In my free periods, I would have cane training with a mobility teacher, she was very patient with me; knowing how much I despised the thought of using a cane, I saw it as an embarrassment, and a way to draw unwanted attention to myself.
I used to cringe when having to use the cane on campus, and about in public.

The specialist college that I went to had a large number of visually impaired people who were mainstreamed in high school, and they didn’t use a cane, the majority of these people, like myself, felt confident without a cane and just saw it as a nuisance. So for the whole time of my college years myself and others who were visually impaired did not use a cane. And as horrible as it sounds, I actually believed that I would get mocked and sneered at if I were to admit I was taking these lessons.

I was in a juxtaposition with myself; I didn’t want to learn to use a cane, because that meant there was a possibility I would need to actually use it, but when I was out with my mobility teacher and it was just she and I, I felt more relaxed and wanted to conquer it. I was eager to learn and get things right, and would constantly chastise myself when my swing was out of time with my footing. (I am a left handed cane user; so as I step out with my right foot, my cane swings across my body to protect that side from being caught by an obstacle).She taught me how to swing in step, how to go up and down stairs and how to cross a road safely and properly as a cane user. By the time I left the college, I felt confident that I could actually use a cane if ever I needed to.

*********

The first time I used the cane was about a month before I lost my sight completely. Again, I admitted to my Mum how hard it was to get around, how I felt scared a lot of the time and would ask people to come with me somewhere, or guide me whenever we were together.
I would see bollards or wheelie bins at the last possible second, and on a few occasions, it was too late and I got a bruising from inanimate objects. Likewise, I would jump out of my skin and sop dead thinking there was an obstacle in my path, but there was nothing there.

I was constantly nervous leaving my home, and avoiding doing so at all costs unless I was assisted. I was losing my independence and I hated it.
I said to my Mum that when I came home for the summer, I would conquer my embarrassment of the cane and use it, because I knew it was time I used it. I was becoming a danger to myself, and potentially others.
Mum agreed.

Note to self: don’t tell Mum anything!
Mum tells the entire family i’ve decided to use my cane after all these years! “Even though she should have been using it years ago!”!

Every time I went to leave the house: “Sassy are you going to take your cane?”

*Hates self for telling Mother about the cane*

“No, I don’t need to., it’s really sunny out and I know this town like the back of my hand.”

A few days of this conversation happening…… Mother had asked me to go to the shop and get some bits, knowing I would struggle finding the items and the stress of it all I waited until my Sister got home from school and asked her to come with me.

“Yes. But only if you take your cane.”

“Francis don’t tell me what to do, i’ll use my cane when I need to!”
“Well i’m not taking you to the shops then, Sassy you said to Mum weeks ago that you know your sight is too bad to not use it, and that you know it’ll help you not only get around safely, but it will allow people to see that you can see them and not just being ignorant!”

*Fuming at my little Sister for telling me what to do, and showing sense*

“Fine! Let me go change.”

“Go change? It’s really warm outside Sassy, what are you on about?”

I’ll be back in a second!””

“Why the hell are you wearing a hoody?”

“So I can wear my hood up.”

“What? Why?”

“So people can’t see me.”

“Sassy you’re wearing a bright pink jumper with your hood up in summer, people are going to notice you, regardless of the cane!”

“Just shut up and let me do what I want!”

*All the way down to the shops*

*Oh god this is so embarrassing, see I knew people would be staring. I hate this so much*
“Sassy you look so stupid. Put your hood down.”

“No!”

“Put your hood down and your head up, everyone knows you’re blind anyway. It’s pretty obvious who you are !”

By the time we got home Mother was already back.

“Why are you wearing a jumper, and with the hood up?”

“So I can hide.”

*Mother just laughs and listens to Francis retail the scenario. While I stalk off*

From then it became a bit more of a frequent occurrence, if I left the house I would take it. Still under duress I will say! But I used it more often, still deliberately leaving it behind if I could get away with it!

********

The day I lost my sight, and actually realised I couldn’t see I kept thinking thank god I brought the cane!

I left the hospital with my Parents and embraced this ugly duckling, that had transformed into the beautiful white Swan before my eyes. Figuratively speaking of course! 😉

In the strangest of ways losing my sight, opened my eyes to the independence I could now have with this ugly white metal object.
Because I couldn’t see people watching me, or staring, they didn’t exist.

The cane became MY cane: my aid, my ally and an extension of me.
And from then, on I’ve never looked back! 🙂

I hope you liked my story 🙂

Have you ever felt in a situation similar to mine? Or as a cane user can you relate to my story?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! 🙂




Much love, Sassy x

Counting My Blessings

Hello lovely people!

I’m’ sorry for my absence of late,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, i’ve had a few things going on these past few weeks which has made it almost impossible for me to blog. The main reason being illness.

2 weeks ago I started to feel pretty under the weather, and if i’m honest it hit me like a tonne of bricks. Due to my medical conditions I actually have NO immune system, so things such as a common cold tends to stay with me for weeks at a time.

These past few weeks have been no exception but with the added bonus of losing my hearing to almost nothing.

I’m not going to lie; these 2 weeks have been extremely tough for me, it wasn’t just the loss of hearing that affected me but the pain and illness that came along with it. The week began with fever, headaches and pain in my ear. For the first few days I was bed bound, trying to sleep away the pain, but as the week progressed and the fever and headaches subsided the pain became unbearable, coinciding with a deterioration in hearing.
Being completely blind, I was constantly disorientated . I would walk into everything, bounce off walls and generally get confused as to where I was within my own home.
Each day with it brought a new challenge, not being able to hear my phone; I use speech software on my phone called VoiceOver to read whatever is on my phone to me, so I can navigate and communicate with the outside world. It became so bad that I could only hear my phone if it was on it’s loudest setting and right against my ear. Of course this came with more worry that I was damaging my hearing because I needed it so loud. I couldn’t hear my door buzzer go (which is usually extremely loud in my opinion), so I couldn’t hear people knocking at my door, I couldn’t hear the TV. I even tried turning it up to it’s loudest volume and could still only hear watery noise. And worst of all, I couldn’t hear Gary to have a conversation with him. He physically had to stand next to me and shout in my ear just for me to hear him.
The irony of the situation probably was at it’s peak when Gary took me to the Doctors about my illness, and he had to repeat everything the Doctor said, by shouting it into my ear.

I am slowly on the mend, my hearing isn’t back to normal yet, but has improved considerably; and this is why I am able to write this post!

As I said earlier I found these past 2 weeks extremely tough, and with each day that my hearing worsened / didn’t improve I became more and more sorry for myself.

I count my blessings though. Because even though I am still not 100% well, I have the upmost respect for anyone who is hard of hearing or has hearing problems of any kind.
All my life I have thought it would always be worse to have hearing loss, over most disabilities.

And for me, over these past few weeks, it has proven my theory correct.

Maybe because I already have no useable vision, but to me, i’ve always admired people who have any sot of hearing impairment. Not being able to watch TV, have a conversation with anyone, or even know that my buzzer was ringing and not being able to hear it was terrible for me. I’m a massive chatterbox, and adore music, and TV, if I couldn’t hear I think it would destroy me as a person.

Don’t get me wrong, being confined to a wheelchair, and not having sight, hasn’t been easy, but i’ve always counted my blessings. I could still interact with the people I loved, listen to my favourite song or even ask a stranger to confirm that my bus was next.

In my opinion if a person was totally deaf, they couldn’t communicate with people the way you or I can, they would have to learn sign language, or write everything down, to be able to interact with someone who did not know sign language. The ease in which a conversation between two people is generally fluid and quick, but for someone who has no hearing that is a barrier to communicating with peers.

I don’t feel sorry for people who have hearing impairments, the way I don’t want people to feel sorry for me just because I can’t see. But I have even more respect for people who are hard of hearing, and count my blessings for every day I am not in a permanent state of being constantly unwell.




I sincerely hope that no-one takes any offense to my thoughts on my experience with hearing loss and how I haven’t dealt with it. But I thought I would put my thoughts and feelings down on paper so-to-speak.

I’m grateful for Gary, my family, and my friends for all the support and positive vibes they’ve been throwing my way over these past few weeks. I’m counting my blessings to have such wonderful people in my life!

What are you counting your blessings for?
Leave me a comment below, i’d love to know 🙂

Much love, Sassy x

Challenges of Being Disabled: The Social Side.

Social Challenges.

As a wheelchair user:

The social challenges I’ve faced have been constant.People continually stared when I was in public. Strangely it was adults that were the worst. Children stopped and stared and asked inquisitive questions, which I could handle, and if I was in talking distance I explained that I couldn’t walk very far, and it was very painful to do so. Adults on the other hand stared and pointed me out to their friends. After time my Mother used to get angry at these people and shout

“Take a picture it’ll last longer!”

At that point the adults became embarrassed and looked away.

  • People frequently would walk in front of the wheelchair and either stop dead to stare or jump out of the way dramatically just in time. Comical for the first few times but after years of it, it gets very annoying.

People insisted on talking to my Mother or anyone else who happened to be pushing me at the time. It is a strange misconception that people who happen to use a wheelchair, have other disabilities or learning impairments.
When this happened my Mother would say:

“She does have a tongue in her head, and knows how to use it.”Adults would talk to me as if I were 2/3 years old, or bend down to talk to me so they could be eye level. I found this extremely patronising and said on several occasions:

“I am a teenager, not a baby!”

“I can see your face from where you were standing.”




 

As a long cane user:

 

  • Ignorance:

Over the last 2 years that I have been using a cane I have had very similar experiences with people stopping and staring, jumping out of the way at the last minute, and speaking to the person I might be with rather than addressing me directly. As I am much older and more mature I tend to ignore these incidents, and realise that I shouldn’t allow myself to get aggravated with these people as I can’t see them and i’m not likely to notice them ever again!
Children have asked their parents about my “white stick” and again if I am in talking distance, I explain that I cannot see things clearly, and the cane is there to let people know I cannot see.

  • New people:

My main social challenges are interacting with new people; whether that’s talking to staff in a shop or restaurant I feel awkward because 9/10 times I can feel the uneasiness of the other person interacting with me.I always look at the persons face but if I am staring at their mouth or their forehead when i’m talking it’s obvious to them I can’t actually see them standing in front of me and i believe it makes them feel awkward too.
Making new friends has also been a challenge for the same reasons mentioned above, but the way I see it *ahem pardon the pun* 😉 they aren’t worth my time if they can’t get past my visual impairment.
Buildings:

Finding new places/ buildings is a stressor to me, I have to plan a route and use a a SatNav application to reach my destination, and i’ve heard people laugh if I walk into objects/ walls.

  • Helpful people:

If people have seen me waiting to cross a road they have taken my arm without me asking, people have also picked up the end of my cane, or taken the cane completely off me to grab my hand to cross me over. With these incidents specifically I hadn’t necessarily noticed there was a person there as I was too busy concentrating on listening to the traffic and judging when it was safest to cross. I find it pretty bewildering and at some points stressful as they plonk me on the other side and walk off.Or most importantly they have taken the thing I need the most to aid me crossing the road safely, and sometimes it’s stunned and shocked me into silence.
My last social challenge was a sort of scary one; I was walking home from the local supermarket bags in hand, when I was approached by a guy who said hello, we chatted for a minute or two then I made my excuses to leave. The guy didn’t get the hint, and asked me for my number, saying how attractive I was. I explained I was flattered but I don’t give my number out to strangers. He was persistent saying he only wanted my number to be friends and chat, but I said I really must leave I’m meeting friends soon. I walked away. As I reached the top of the hill he came rushing up to me asking if I was meeting my friends in town, and if i needed a hand to get there. I politely declined but he continued to follow me, returning to our previous conversation about asking for my number and going on a date. At this point I was getting quite close to home and had to really insist I wasn’t interested, and I needed to go now. Eventually he stopped walking with me, to which I couldn’t be more happy about. I was close to my house, and knew I was safe, but I needed him to back off as I didn’t want to show him where I lived.

My heart was pounding as I got home, I knew deep down he wasn’t going to hurt me, he was just a guy trying his luck, but as a petite female who can’t see past her nose, I was genuinely worried he wouldn’t leave and therefore find out where I lived and potentially stalk me. Thank the gods that never happened!
I know some of you who are reading this might perceive my thoughts and reactions as rude and inappropriate, but if you could put yourself in my shoes for a day, you’d understand. I strive to be pleasant and polite when I am out and about, but it becomes frustrating and boring hearing, and seeing, the same things from the same people everyday. I think more needs to be done to educate children and adults on how to approach and speak to people with disabilities. The more we educate, the more we learn, and the more we can end the awkward surrounding disability!

I will also say that these are just my bad experiences of dealing with people interacting with me as a disabled person. I would like to input that from being in a wheelchair as a child and teenager, to becoming blind as an adult, my perceptions and attitudes towards people have changed, and I am far more reserved, and polite when interacting with new people. I attempt to be pleasant when out in public, and educate those around me, especially when children or adults have asked questions. I won’t stand for people patronising me or being ignorant, but the ways in which I will express it is in a mature manner, and diplomatically show them the errors of their ways. I’m not sure if it’s because I have a changed persona from my childhood, or I give people the benefit of the doubt now, but i’m very lucky that I have had far more happy, interesting and pleasant interactions and conversations with the public since I went blind.
If you’re worried about interacting with people with disabilities, check out SCOPE’s End The Awkward campaign 🙂
Thanks for reading, I know my posts can be pretty hefty. Feel free to comment below if you have any comments or questions on this weeks blog 🙂

Sassy x




Challenges of Being Disabled: The Emotional Side.

Emotional Challenges.

As a wheelchair user In a lot of ways my emotional challenges were probably typical of anyone with a disability who needed to use a wheelchair to continue with daily life. Although I was not completely immobile, the pain I suffered in my childhood was beyond anything I can put into words, so having a wheelchair was a large relief not just to my body but my mind too. Don’t get me wrong I definitely had my moments: stress, frustration and anger were not only my weakness,I became emotionally drained, but it was also my empowerment. I needed that frustration and anger to keep me going, screaming at my own body to move when I was seized up, and the agony that ensued for moving it.
I really had to train myself to accept help from family and friends, and try not to be so fiercely independent. Trying to do everything on my own was deep seated within me, I didn’t want to look weak, or behave differently from my classmates, so I tried my hardest to keep up and stay involved. Unfortunately children can be quite cruel, and on a number of occasions when my friends got annoyed that I walked so slow, and couldn’t run around, they would make fun of me, and more than once actually ran away from me. My temper and sadness got the better of me, I would shout after them horrible names for leaving me, but then break down and cry whilst hobbling home, knowing that I was different and they didn’t like me being disabled.

The emotional stages of fear, grief and denial I went through was extremely hard as a child, I once was a “normal” child, and then I wasn’t. I would rely on friends to push me around in my wheelchair especially when my arms and wrists got tired, but if they weren’t interested in helping because the novelty had worn off, I had to find a way to get home, or for the next week or so I wasn’t invited out to hang out, and because I depended on them for support, if I wasn’t invited, I had no option but to stay indoors, and find something else to do those evenings.

Due to the physical challenges it unfortunately impacted heavily on my emotional state, it was draining not just on me as a person, but everyone around me, and for those years of my childhood, they were harder to cope with than I would have ever imagined.




As a long cane user: My emotional state has definitely varied over the years since my sight loss began. In some ways it was similar to my emotional state when I was in a wheelchair but it dipped and progressed in lots of different ways. As I started to lose my sight I feared a lot for my future and became frequently angry over the lack o control, my late teenage years were particularly distressing because although I had accepted I couldn’t see as well as I used to, I was in denial that it could get worse, and exclaimed several times over the years I would take my own life if I ever lost my sight completely.

Because my sight deteriorated in stages it was in some ways easier to get a handle on it and adjust to my lack of vision, but because I knew exactly what I was losing I became far more angry and upset, and it all boiled down to the loss of control, and asking others for more and more help.

When I suddenly lost my remaining vision, it was a real blow. I went into the hospital knowing I would regain more sight, and waking up from my operation with nothing. The reason I say knowing was pure denial; my Surgeon, who was also my Professor, had done this more than once over the years, so even though I knew the risks I refused to believe there would be a bad outcome. After 24 hours I had light perception and a tiny pin prick of my old vision, that was what made me carry on with life, and realise things could be worse. I’ve still had my moments of ultimate distress, fear for my future, and grieve for what i’ve lost. But through the help of family, friends and a counsellor I now take each day as it comes, and see everyday as a new challenge to conquer! 🙂 🙂 🙂




Challenges of Being Disabled: The Physical side.

This post is going to be a bit more doom and gloom this week i’m afraid. It focuses on the challenges i’ve faced as a disabled person, but I am going to explain it from 2 different stand points. Unfortunately over the years I have had some negative experiences, but as they say: you gotta take the good with the bad!I am going to break it down into 3 main categories and have 2 sub sections looking at the viewpoints from a wheelchair user and a long cane user.




Physical Challenges.

As a wheelchair user:

 

  • Steps / flights of stairs. these have been the bane of my existence since my arthritis hit full throttle. I used a wheelchair to get around easily but that was always hindered by steps. Getting into places such as restaurants, or shopping stores, If I was by myself and there were no ramps or lifts available I had to get out of my wheelchair and get it up the step. If it was a flight of stairs I had to make an informed decision on whether firstly, I could manage the stairs, and secondly, if it was safe to leave my wheelchair unattended. The reason I got so upset wasn’t just because it was an inconvenience for me, but I thought of all the people who were paralysed or unable to get out of their wheelchair for other reasons. I’m glad the law has changed but I always made sure to make a point of complaining either directly or indirectly to the staff members of the establishments.

Pavements:

  • Another source of vexation for me! I don’t think people are fully aware of just how high pavements actually are, unless I was being pushed by someone who was happy to bump me off the kerb and then recline me back again so I could get back up the other kerb, it was like strapping yourself into Oblivion at Alton Towers, and just hanging there, waiting to plunge face forward. If the persons’ body weight was not counterbalancing my tipping point, I would fall forward and have the wheelchair on top of me. Trust me on this, don’t try doing it yourself, it hurts! I learnt that the hard way! And what if someone wasn’t pushing me? I would have to wheel myself halfway down the street, passing the path I needed to be on, just to find a sloping pavement. Imagine how annoying and not-to-mention how tiring it is when that’s just a small part of your journey!

Buses:

  • Before buses in the UK had hydraulic suspension fitted getting a wheelchair on and off them was a total nightmare, combine that with the previous challenges I mentioned earlier, and you’ll understand why I was extremely displeased to get on one of the older buses.
  • One time I can’t go without mentioning, again,buses. My partner and I were on a packed bus home at rush hour, full of people of all ages:specifically referring to 3 women with pushchairs sitting at the front with their toddlers. As you can imagine, traffic was practically at a stand still, and the journey was extremely long. If it wasn’t bad enough that it was hectic, one toddler insisted on screaming the bus down until his Mother lifted him out of his pushchair. When we eventually got to the next stop there was a gentleman in a wheelchair waiting patiently to get on… The bus driver opened the doors and shook his head at the man in the wheelchair; because there were women on board with their toddlers in pushchairs!! The driver did not ONCE ask any of the women to fold up their pushchairs and hold their child on their lap, which is a policy of UK bus companies! I’m still so enraged to this day thinking about the injustice that the poor gentleman suffered! The woman already had her toddler on her lap, yet the driver didn’t even acknowledge this and do his duty as a bus driver! I even tweeted the bus company just after the event and got no response! It baffles me why some people can be so completely ignorant!!




As a long cane user:

  •  Being a long cane user is quite physically demanding, and unless it’s a route I know like the back of my hand, I have to be fully vigilant at all times when travelling around. If wheelie bins have been left out, or cars are parked on the pavement, my cane gets caught in the smallest of gaps and cause me to jar my wrist or stab myself in the stomach. Not a pleasant experience!
    Pavements: walking through the town centre or generally around the area I live in, i’m almost guarantied i’ll trip, or my cane will get snagged on the raised slabs and cause me to twist my wrist or have my cane fly behind me, as I try to continue and I haven’t noticed it’s stuck! It’s sort of painful, but in truth, more embarrassing than anything else…

People:

  • On several occasions people have not paid any attention and caught me with their body part, pushchair, or handbag, and as strange as it sounds, it’s physically demanding to retain your balance and not steer off track when this happens. I think it might have more to do with me being more unsteady on my feet due to my arthritis, but using a cane in public really takes it toll physically on a visually impaired person.