When people think about disability, they often think of old age, as in fairness the chance of becoming disabled does increase with age. When people think about old age, they think of comfort, convenience, and all things dull and beige. Thus, as a result of both mis-truths, it is assumed that disabled people have no interest in appearance, either of themselves or their equipment. This could not be further from the truth.
Many people have experienced the struggles of bra shopping, and particularly the larger among us will know all too well the frustrations of trying to find a comfortable, supportive bra that also looks pretty. Even if you aren’t planning to have your bra on display, it’s still nice to feel nice. Mobility aids are a lot like bras; there is a balance to be struck between function and form, they cost far too much, and there is a small risk of impalement on metal tubes.
Some equipment like a wheelchair or walking frame is naturally bulky and impossible to conceal, but most are now at least available in a small variety of colours and patterns to brighten them up. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get a matching set. I also have a habit of putting stickers on my wheelchairs, and it isn’t Christmas until the tinsel has appeared on the handles.
With other aids, however, I haven’t been as lucky. I have yet to find a splint or supportive bandage styled to look like Thanos’s Infinity Gauntlet (Disney: call me), or a decent shirt without buttons that don’t hurt my fingers. Skinny jeans are a commitment both getting them off and on if they aren’t stretchy enough (or maybe I’m just getting fatter), and the stretchy ones are hard to find in cool patterns and colours. Accessible clothing lines which use things like Velcro instead of buttons do exist, but are hard to find on the high-street and frankly don’t cater for anyone without the sense of style of a colour-blind 50-year-old (hi dad).
As for accessories, the late 00’s trend of wearing fake glasses actually helped to make fashionable frames available for those of us who really do need lenses. Clip-on ties are becoming increasingly commonplace, but other accessories like jewellery remain fiddly, even for a neurosurgeon. Hair and make-up very much depends on the energy levels and manual dexterity of each person, which is why mine varies from meth-head to Morticia Addams.
One very easy way I have found of customising my style is getting tattoos. They’re not for everyone, but other than the initial aftercare, they take minimal maintenance and remain perfect for years afterward. That said, finding an accessible tattoo parlour with a decent reputation is its own battle, and then you have to hope the tattoo artist can recognise a disabled person’s ability to make their own choices.
Disabled people and old people alike deserve to have pretty things if they want pretty things. Many of us care about our appearance, so mobility aids and accessible items should still consider aesthetics to some extent. Perhaps the assumption that both the disabled and elderly disregard aesthetics is because people assume that we’re all asexual/have a general disinterest in sex, which is not something to be assumed for disabled, old, or asexual people at all.
What it all boils down to is that people complain about the aesthetics of accessibility measures on buildings, but somehow seem to forget about the people who need them.