How Zappos Makes Getting Dressed Easy And Fun For People With Disabilities

I have a daughter. I actually have two children, but my son is not hard to shop for or get dressed. I chop it up to the fact that he’s a boy, and boys can be easier in that realm of child-rearing. Nonetheless, I have definitely experienced opinions and attitudes from my daughter when it came to purchasing clothes. When they’re little, it’s easy. They wear what you buy them, but at some point, it shifted, and her opinions were put on display. She liked one thing, and I liked something else.

Then, when she really began to hit her growth spurt, she grew taller and taller. She soon became one of the two or three tallest girls in her classroom or grade. Now, at 19, she’s 5’11”. During the growth stages, however, my biggest struggle was finding pants long enough and shirts with long-enough sleeves. I soon began to love certain brands like Levi’s that allowed you to almost custom-fit your jeans purchase with many different inseam lengths. I also enjoyed brands like Banana Republic that had a “tall” section on their website. However, that was just it. Purchasing for a girl who was taller than average was easy to find online but not as easy to find in the store, off the shelf. That meant you really need to know your sizes and the websites had to have very accurate pictures so you know exactly what you’re buying. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting something that doesn’t actually fit or looks nothing like the photo.

I had a hard time finding clothes, but the reality is, I had mainstream, notorious brands to which I can turn to find appropriately fit clothing for her. I also knew I could trust the quality because of the built-in brand recognition and loyalty. 

Now imagine having a child who has a hard time buttoning shirts due to a disability or maybe doesn’t like the feeling of the tag in the back of the shirt due to sensory-related sensitivities attributed to a disability. You scour the stores to find clothes that match his needs and come up short. Tagless shirts are not the norm, so to speak. You can find them, but they are much easier to find on t-shirts, as opposed to casual or button-down shirts. Finding shirts with the look of a button-down but actually not having buttons are impossible. Then, you go online. Adaptive clothing is becoming more common than it was 5 or 10 years ago, but many brands still need to catch. In fact, the entire fashion industry needs to play catch up because, at the end of the day, everyone wants to look their best. We all want quality clothing options, and that desire doesn’t change simply because you have or your child has a disability. While there are some recognizable brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Nike who are really leading the way to create “button-down” shirts with magnets instead of buttons and tennis shoes with laces but actually zip on and off, not enough are following. 

My interviews with Sasha Radwan of Special Kids Company and Dana Zumbo of Zappos are important to the conversation around the fashion landscape and how inclusive the industry really is when it comes to people with disabilities. Sasha Radwan created an online fashion company catering to children with disabilities and categorized the clothing based on the child’s behaviors. Zappos is an online retailer that became a pioneer in the adaptive clothing industry based on one customer service phone call. 

Out of that one phone call, Zappos Adaptive was borne and it has grown each and every year since. Since then, companies like Target have included adaptive clothing options on their website as well. That says a lot, and while I’m glad to see the needle moving in the direction of including everyone in the fashion realm, the next step will be to see these clothing options in the stores. Going in a store, trying something on, looking in a mirror and deciding right then there, whether you like how it looks on you or not is incomparable to the online shopping experience. 

Let’s face it. While many of us love shopping online and hate trying things on, it’s a privilege we have taken for granted. We can easily shirk at the chore of having to drive to the store, look through racks and racks of clothes and try something on, only to look in the mirror in horror because we’ve been doing it since our “hanging out at the mall days” in high school. 

When you haven’t done that for years and you’re just now engaging in that at age 25, 35, or 45, it might turn out to be one of your favorite chores to complete.

I ask you to think about these things as you watch the interviews. They are completely different in that I talk to Sasha about her company, why she started it, and how her background of being an Arab minority in a white-majority country and school influenced its creation. I talked to Dana of Zappos Adaptive about the company culture of Zappos, and how it influenced and even encouraged the creation of Zappos Adaptive, what that has meant the company, and how that influences her decisions to work with certain vendors. Each interview brings its own perspective on the fashion industry and both are integral to the conversation of fashion inclusivity. 


–  Jennifer O. Price

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