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Welcome to UK Wheelchairs - the home of value and quality

Fashion students help out

Wheelchair users helped out by Fashion students

I was sent this from an old friend in Oz and wondered if we have a similar scheme going on here in the UK.

Design students in Queensland have created a new clothing collection designed specifically for wheelchair users, recognising that there is little choice and that many disabled people have a hard time finding clothes that are comfortable, look good and are practical in wheelchairs.

wheelchair users clothing design

Students from Brisbane's Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE have teamed up with the Spinal Injuries Association to create designs that are eye-catching and fit properly when using a wheelchair.

Their collection has just been showcased in Brisbane.

Katie Franz was 16 when a car accident left her unable to walk again.

"Waking up in a hospital and being told that you'll never be able to walk again, you have to sit down in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, it really means that it's tracksuit pants and T-shirts," she said.

"Really, who feels amazing in a baggy T-shirt and tracksuit pants?

"You have to rebuild and you have to put all your pieces back and part of that is putting your individuality back together."

Ms Franz says she has had a hard time finding things to wear, that are easy to put on, look good and are practical.

"Things get caught in your chair, long dresses get caught in your front wheels, you can't wear high heels, it doesn't work," she said.

Design challenge

Fashion student Jackie Hall helped design a collection to overcome those problems and says it was a challenge.

"They don't like velcro, because it's an old material I guess, it makes them look old," she said.

"But they don't like buttons as well, so you had to think about all the other things that you could use instead of those things.

"For Katie, as well, because she's a mum but she doesn't want to look like a frumpy mum, because she's still cool and active, it was cool to design her outfit to suit wheelchair use."

Finbar Mills suffered a spinal injury in a dirt bike accident and says it can be frustrating finding practical clothes that work when you're in a wheelchair most of each day.

"You want to not be rolling down the street and have a shirt riding up over your stomach or riding up your back, it's not a good look, no-one likes that," he said.

"You do go through this new identity phase when you're in a wheelchair and when it first comes out because you're trying to re-understand who you are as a person.

"What you're wearing and what you do is a good reflection of what it is you are."

Rewarding experience

He says the clothes the students have designed address many challenges he has faced.

"The garments are a lot looser, a lot more comfortable and they actually sit quite well when you're in the chair," he said.

"I'm a young guy, and I like to go out and have a bit of fun and I'm doing a lot of socialising, and you know you want to look good."

Fashion student Jennifer Wilson says the project has been a rewarding experience.

"It's really just that there is no market out there for them, and we had no idea about any of this before we came into this project," she said.

"I had no idea that there was such problems with people in wheelchairs trying to get clothes that they feel good in.

"Just to be able to bring something like that to somebody's life, give them self expression and that sort of thing, is such a good thing."

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