Clothing for wheelchair users must be versatile to accommodate the unique needs of wearers. Whether you need clothing for work, recreation, special occasions or simply relaxing at home, using this type of clothing provides a comfortable, fashionable solution so that you can look and feel great.
Considerations for Clothing for Wheelchair Users
As the saying goes, "When you look good, you feel good." Everyone deserves the dignity of looking in the mirror and feeling proud of his or her appearance. Just because you use a wheelchair doesn't mean you're forced to don frumpy, uncomfortable clothing.
Cut and Style
Clothing hangs differently depending on your posture. When seated, clothing cut for typical users bunches up around the waist and back. Longer-length sweaters, peasant-style tops, tunics and cardigans may also pose a hazard if they hang near the top of the wheels on a wheelchair or near the brakes. Many styles of dress shirts, especially dress shirts for men, are also too tight across the shoulders and arms for men to propel their wheelchairs easily. Clothing for wheelchair users is cut differently to enhance safety, independence and mobility.
Look for clothing with the following adaptations:
- Longer neck-to-waist ratio: This is the portion of the garment from the neckline to where it hits near the waist. Adaptive clothing is often cut with this section longer in front than in the back so that the back of the garment doesn't bunch up when seated.
- Longer-length on skirts on the front side: Women who like to wear skirts find that the usual cut of skirts doesn't work if you're seated all the time. Skirts tend to ride up in the front, exposing the leg or knee, and longer skirts hang down in the back, sometimes dragging on the floor. Skirts for wheelchair users should be cut with the front section proportionately longer, so that when seated, the skirt forms a neat circle around the bottom hem.
- Longer-length trousers: Trousers also ride up on the leg when seated. To maintain a neat line without exposing too much sock, look for trousers slightly longer than what you may wear when standing. Unless of course you want to show off your special socks; then by all means, wear typical length trousers and flaunt those argyles!
- Loose fit around hips and thighs: For both men and women, pants with a loose cut around the hips and thighs are more comfortable than tight-fitting trousers. Relaxed-fit pants can also accommodate medical devices such as catheter bags and tubes, hiding them neatly under trousers.
- Loose fit across the shoulders and arms: A loose fit in tops, shirts, jackets and blazers enables wheelchair users to move their arms freely to smoothly move their wheelchairs wherever they wish.
- Flat seams: Nothing hurts more seams that rub and chafe. If selecting pants or trousers, feel the inner leg seam. It should be soft and sit flat against the leg. Pinching, bunching or rubbing hurts a lot, and for those with sensitive skin due to medications or illness, can also spell disaster in the form of painful sores.
- Avoid tight belts or fitted waists: Belts can be uncomfortable, especially if too tight. Ladies may wish to avoid dresses with belts. Fitted waists with elastic provide fashionable yet comfortable options for most garments.
Just because a garment has to be more loose in some areas doesn't mean it can't fit well. Don't hesitate to have a tailor adjust clothing for wheelchair users to best accentuate figure and posture.
Color and Pattern
Both men and women benefit from selecting flattering colors and patterns. Keep in mind that dark colors recede, while light colors make something appear larger. Dark trousers or skirts blend in with the wheelchair, while pretty patterns or attractive tops and jewelry focus attention on the face. Vertical stripes make a person appear taller and slimmer. Large patterns may overwhelm petite figures.
Other Clothing Adaptations for Seniors
Depending on your level of mobility, you may select clothes with other adaptations for comfort and convenience.
Buttons, clips, neckties, and fasteners pose special challenges. Arthritis and other ailments can make buttoning shirts quite painful.
Fortunately, manufacturers have come up with clever solutions for easy access. For example, men's dress shirts fasten with magnets or Velcro behind the button placket to create a smooth, seamless look that's easy to change into and out of no matter what your disability.
For those who find donning shoes a challenge, slip-on fashions can be useful. Be careful, however, if you use slip-on shoes and stand or walk as well as use a wheelchair. Slip-on shoes may also slip off easily. Shoes that fasten with Velcro come in many fashionable styles, as well as athletic styles for sports or outdoor recreation.
Choose soft, machine washable fabrics. Look for natural fibers, such as wool, cotton and blends that allow the skin to breathe. Wear layers to add warmth or cool off as needed.
Sources of Clothing
Never before have wheelchair users had access to such a variety of fashionable styles, colors and clothing options to enhance their independence. You can find adaptive clothing on the Internet or through mail-order catalogs. You can even buy blue jeans adapted for wheelchair wear, as well as formal gowns, nightgowns, underwear, athletic clothing, and more.
No matter what your needs, the following catalogs offer fashionable clothing for comfort and style. So be yourself and choose fashions that enhance your natural beauty while providing you with safe, comfortable clothing.
- The LoveToKnow Seniors article Fashionable_Adaptive_Clothing_Manufacturers offers a great list of adaptive clothing manufacturers and more tips on finding clothes that are easy to don and remove.
- Easy Access Products features clothing for work, school, play, special occasions and more. While the catalog also includes clothing for children, the adult fashions are suitable for home, church, work and other activities.
- Adaptive Apparel includes blue jeans and specially-cut jackets that don't bunch up in the back for wheelchair users. Great casual styles at reasonable prices are available through this catalog.