CNN Style "Fashion-able: Innovators tackle clothing challenges for people with disabilities"
Lauriel Cleveland, Aug 3, 2015
Students create accessible designs for disabled people at MIT's OpenStyleLab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
(CNN)"Your clothing vocabulary shouldn't be limited just because you have a certain physical condition." That is the mantra that Grace Teo and Alice Tin choose to live by after creating the OpenStyleLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Currently in its second year, the 10-week summer program that Teo and Tin host each summer brings together students of diverse backgrounds from around the world to study engineering, occupational therapy and design.
The students are challenged to create apparel that "requires both functionality and aesthetics" for people with mental and physical disabilities.
"The independence to choose clothes, the independence to dress [oneself] in the morning is such an intimate act that is integral to anyone's morning ritual," Tin said. "Why isn't the fashion industry addressing this issue?"
The flagship educational program has trained more than 60 students thus far, some who have gone on to work for companies including Nike, which recently released the "Flyease" sneaker, designed for people who have difficulty putting their feet into shoes.
According to the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, 19% of the U.S. population identifies as disabled, a number that would make them the nation's largest minority group if they were formally recognized as one.
Tin says that creating the program, and her encounters with clients, have opened her eyes to how much goes into getting dressed every day.
" As OpenStyleLab shares more of these stories -- the clothing challenges that our clients face, and what solutions they came up with," she said. "We can get other people thinking, 'What would I do to solve this problem?' If we can add a little to that cultural shift in thinking, I believe we will be working towards a more inclusive society."
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