Adaptive Clothing for People with Disabilities

Adaptive Clothing DisabilitiesLiving with a disability can be challenging especially when it comes to one’s own personal care. Simple tasks such as getting dressed in the morning can be difficult.  Dressing oneself should not be a troublesome task, but rather a familiar routine that is not hindered by changes in the body.

Adaptive clothing and footwear is designed for wheelchair users, elderly, those with restricted range of motion or other medical conditions like arthritis, limb loss and many more.  Adaptive clothing is specialized clothing that is modified to enable easier dressing for people with such conditions.

These are a few techniques that are applied to make clothing comfortable:

  • Closures:  Zippers, Velcro and Magnetic closures are easier to manipulate than normal buttons.  Closures at the shoulders and arms are preferred as they can be put on around the person rather than over the head.  Zippers with a pull ring can help those who have trouble holding the zip.  Elastic waistbands, rather than zippers, are a good option for pants.
  • Pants: For those who use a wheelchair, pants should have a higher back so that it does not move down while seated.  Pockets are best placed at the front upper thigh or upper calf area for easy access. Pockets at the backside should be avoided as they cannot be reached and their seams can cause pressure sores.
  • Avoid pressure sore points:   The location of closures and seams at pressure points should be avoided as sitting or leaning against these for an extended time can result in painful pressure sores.  It will be difficult for those with limited mobility to move and adjust their clothing, so it is best to avoid seams or any closures like buttons or zippers at the back.
  • Access for Medical ports:  Adults and children who need access to medical ports need clothing that allow their insertion without the need to remove their clothes entirely.  Zip-open flaps placed at the appropriate parts on the clothing can help with this.
  • Drain Pockets:  Internal pockets, can hold surgical drains that are put in place after a surgery such as mastectomy.  It allows the person to be comfortable and go through their healing process with Dignity.
  • Fabric:  The fabric used needs to be of good quality, durable and should not be abrasive to the skin, especially for the elderly.  Material that does not need much ironing, such as denim pants, are a plus.  Avoid fabric that may stick to the wheelchair seat cushions.  Fabric that can bundle up under the person’s seat or thighs can cause pressure sores for those without sensation.
  • Bulky Garments:  Clothing that can hang near wheelchair wheels or brakes can be a hazard for the user.  It is important to remember that long dresses, skirts or raincoats can touch the floor when seated on the wheelchair and can also create a lot of bulk on the wheelchair.  Clothing should be properly measured to take account of this.
  • Overlapping:  Wrap around designs that have generous overlapping at the back makes it easy for dressing while seated.  The shirt or blouse easily slides on from the front over the arms and is fastened at the shoulders.  There is no seam at the back of the clothing.  This is quick way to get dressed and to avoid pressure sores.  Shirts may still have buttons in the front to make it look like normal shirts, but they have no functioning to remove it on or off.
  • Footwear: Adapted shoes have easy slip on designs and Velcro that replaces shoelaces. Skid resistant footwear allows safe wheelchair transfers. Non-constrictive diabetic socks relieves issues with swollen feet and ankles.
  • Dressing Aids:  Button hooks, dressing sticks, sock aids, pant pull ups and long shoe horns are devices that help people dress independently.

Adaptive clothing offers simple yet innovative solutions to the difficulties posed by conventional clothing, enabling individuals to be more comfortable, independent and self-reliant in their daily lives. An important thing to remember is to ask the person what adjustments they feel comfortable with in their clothing.

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