Clothing choices may be a trivial topic for most people. However, for those with disabilities, clothing may cause additional barriers that could prevent them from engaging in their communities.

“While it may be an afterthought for some, clothing and appearance are not trivial,” says Allison Kabel, assistant professor of health sciences at the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri.

“For people with disabilities, the lack of adaptive clothing is not just a burden, it is a barrier for community participation,” she adds.

In a recent study, she and Kerrie McBee-Black, instructor of textile and apparel management in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, analyzed interviews of people in a focus group on the topic of clothing and how it impacted their lives.

From the interviews, they identified apparel-related barriers for people with disabilities that fell into three categories: mechanical and functional barriers, cultural barriers, and sensory sensitivity barriers, according to a media release from University of Missouri Health.

Zippers, buttons, shoelaces and fabric texture often present challenges for those who live independently. Others reported problems when trying to find clothes that fit.

In one example, cultural prohibitions around the touching of feet hindered a female caregiver from caring for a male stroke victim who was unable to put on or take off his shoes due to nerve damage. In another example, participants noted difficulty with dressing children with sensory sensitivities, particularly those with autism, the release notes.

According to Kabel in the release, there is a need for innovation in design, production, distribution and sale of adaptive clothing.

“In many cases, the only options are custom-made clothing, which is not accessible due to high costs. Affordable clothes that can be mass produced are necessary to address specific apparel-related barriers identified in our research,” she continues.

The study was published recently in Disability and Rehabilitation.

[Source(s): University of Missouri Health, Newswise]