Representation of people with disabilities in fashion advertisements has been a hot topic in recent years, with large brands like H&M and Tommy Hilfiger featuring more diverse models in their campaigns. Representation is important for visibility, but it’s also necessary for the fashion industry to sell to those living with disabilities.
Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, a well-known YouTuber, has suggested fashion advertisements feature people sitting down. “Considering that’s what I do most of the time, I’d like to know it still looks good,” she said.
However, a more immediate issue has been raised: people with disabilities need a more accessible shopping experience.
One of the most common problems people with disabilities face when shopping for clothes is the size and shape of changing rooms. Many shoppers need a friend or partner to accompany them into the changing room, and most rooms are too small for two people to fit comfortably.
There’s also a lack of bars, which many people living with disabilities would like to hold on to while getting changed, as well as the common complaint that store aisles are too narrow for mobility aids.
Those with auditory processing disorders – whether co-morbid with another neurological divergence or existing on its own – have stated that music is often played too loudly. Some retailers are introducing quiet shopping hours to accommodate these customers.
Difficulties for people with disabilities extend to online shopping, with blind users unable to tell what the clothing looks like as descriptors are often limited to colour and type of material.
The fashion industry needs to work on representation, but even if stores manage to attract customers with disabilities they still may struggle to give them a pleasant shopping experience. Retailers in New Zealand who’d like to learn more about making their stores accessible can contact the Disabled Persons Assembly for a consultation on (04) 801 9100.