Two Blind Brothers Fashion

Owners of Two Blind Brothers Fashion

With Thanksgiving in the rear view window, the 2019 holiday shopping season is well underway. If you’re reading this, we probably don’t need to remind you to visit Enabling Devices.com to find the best selection of adapted toys, sensory items, electronics, switches, communicators, training products and more.

But if you’re looking for something we don’t sell — say a super-soft, ultra-fashionable T-shirt or polo, or a piece of jewelry that expresses an inspiring message — you might want to consider a gift from Two Blind Brothers.com.

Founded by brothers Bryan and Branford Manley in 2017, Two Blind Brothers sells designer clothing and accessories for men, women and children. The Manley brothers, who both have Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration that has robbed them of much of their sight, started the company “to make shopping easier for the visually impaired by creating the best shirts that appeal to everyone.”

As the Two Blind Brothers’ website explains, “a person with a visual impairment can’t just go into a store, spot a shirt they like, and try it on to see how they look. A person with a visual impairment instead has to rely on other factors to determine what they want to buy, such as how the shirt feels, how it forms to their body, how comfortable it is to wear, and what other people have to say about it.”

Like many individuals who are blind, the Manley brothers have highly developed tactile abilities that worked to their advantages when it came to selecting the softest textiles for their apparel. After testing thousands of fabric samples, the Manleys came upon the perfect blend — 66% bamboo, 28% cotton, and 6% spandex — a combination they promise will make Two Blind Brothers shirts your favorites!

Two Blind Brothers also stands out because of its “Shop Blind” website. Designed specifically for blind shoppers and distinct from the company’s website for seeing customers, Shop Blind’s premise is “trust,” say the brothers. “We’re asking you to trust us to get a product we think you will LOVE without ever having seen it, the same way that trust lifts us all up every day.”

Clothing produced by Two Blind Brothers is also distinctive and practical for blind customers because each piece has the garment’s color written in Braille above the right bottom hemline. As the creators note: “this subtle, yet impactful detail is recognizable, stylish and a great conversation starter.” Likewise, necklaces and bracelets with the message “Love is blind” written in Braille help to raise awareness about blindness.

Two Blind Brothers products aren’t inexpensive, yet they’re well-made and support a great cause. In fact, all proceeds from the sale of their products are donated towards research programs developing cures for retinal eye diseases.

For more information, visit twoblindbrothers.com

School Stylin’ – New Adaptive Clothing

Group of Children with Disabilites wearing new Adaptive Clothing Line

Headed back to school? This year, adaptive fashions are making it possible to do so in style and comfort! After years of neglect, the $3 trillion fashion industry is finally giving people with disabilities the attention they deserve. Nowadays, an ever-increasing number of individual designers and big-name brands have begun creating clothing that not only meets the practical needs of people with disabilities but provides them with opportunities to dress stylishly.

According to LA Parent, “things are heating up for adaptive clothing in the fashion world. The runways of L.A. and New York, department stores and online shopping portals are now championing adaptive lines, building a connection between functionality and fashion – and not just for adults, but children, too. Addressing specific physical needs, garments are more than just something to wear – they can provide emotional relief, long-lasting recognition and personalized joy.”

Exhibit A: A recent runway show in New York City that featured the designs of students from the city’s fashion schools who worked in concert with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. The designers were mentored by none other than design icon, Anna Sui, who told InStyle magazine that the show was “amazing.”

Tommy Hilfiger was one of the first big-name designers to feature a line of adaptive clothing beginning in 2016. The clothing, which resembles Tommy’s non-adaptive clothing, has hidden magnetic closures and one handed zippers to make dressing easier. Check out their Back to School clothes in the adaptive clothing section.

It’s been about a year since Target launched its adaptive clothing line. Stacey Monson, a designer for Target and a mother of an autistic child who isn’t toilet-trained and has minimal fine motor coordination inspired the company to create an adaptive line. Target’s adaptive clothing is tagless and seamless so it won’t bother children with sensory sensitivities. The store also sells body suits that make diaper changing more convenient and “wheelchair-friendly jackets have side-openings and zip-on sleeves for easier dressing,” writes Emily Matchar for Smithsonion.com. And more good news: For 2018-2019, Target will also sell garments for adults with  physical and developmental disabilities.

Prefer to do your shopping exclusively online? No problem.  Zappos now sells adaptive shoes and clothing “from stability-enhancing sneakers to shirts with magnetic buttons,” says Matchar.

The latest big brand to get on the adaptive clothes bandwagon is Lands’ End. Though school uniforms aren’t exactly high fashion, “the 6.6 million school-age kids with a disability,” and their parents are probably grateful for the innovation” writes parenting blogger Caroline Hogeveen on Romper. In fact, Hogeveen calls Lands’ End adapted school uniform clothes “a gamechanger.”

Here’s hoping that the movement to design adapted, fashion-forward clothing continues to grow.

Gotta Look Sharp

Hilfiger Adaptive Clothing

There’s good news for differently abled fashion mavens or even people who simply want dressing with disabilities to be a little bit easier—the 20 percent of Americans with disabilities are finally feeling the love from designers on Madison Avenue and beyond.

From big names like Tommy Hilfiger and Nike to niche designers like Lucy Jones, Maura Horton and Stephanie Alves (who was previously featured in Enabling’s blog), there’s a growing recognition that consumers with disabilities represent a large and growing market for the fashion industry. What took them so long???

Accessible Runway

Launched in 2016, Tommy Hilfiger’s adaptive collection was created in collaboration with a nonprofit called Runway of Dreams.  The nonprofit, founded by fashion designer, Mindy Scheier, was a labor of love. Scheier created it for her son Oliver who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and wanted to dress like his peers.

After doing some research, Scheier found that there weren’t many designers offering style-conscious clothes for the differently abled. So, she started adapting clothing for Oliver. But she didn’t stop there. Scheier also organized focus groups where she asked other people with disabilities about their needs for adapted clothing. Then she approached Tommy Hilfiger who became the first major designer to partner with her organization to offer adapted styles from his children’s collections.

Based on her research with the focus groups, Scheier told UCP Maine she adapted Tommy Hilfiger’s clothing in the following ways:

“The first is closures: buttons and zippers have been replaced with a special stylish magnet closure called MagnaReady® [designer Maura Horton’s invention]. The second is the adjustability of the clothing: pant legs, sleeves lengths and waistbands are adjustable because the sizes needed for seated comfort differ from standing. Third is the ways in which a person can get in and out of the clothing: pull-over style clothing can be difficult due to low muscle tone, limb differences or other disabilities, so the seams have been adjusted to allow for the clothing to be entered through the back rather than over the head.”

Despite these adaptations, the clothing looks identical to the designer’s non-adapted clothing.

The collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger is just the beginning for Scheier who says, “her organization won’t stop until as many brands as possible are offering adaptive versions of their clothing.”

Shirts That Button Themselves

A former children’s fashion designer, Maura Horton returned to the industry after Parkinson’s disease began to take a toll on her husband Don Horton, a former college football coach who was diagnosed at the age of 48.

Horton founded MagnaReady, a company that manufactures shirts that are “magnetically infused,” to help her husband and others whose disabilities make it difficult or impossible for them to button their own shirts.

According to Fox News.com, last summer, Horton partnered with PVH (The Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation), “a global apparel company that owns Tommy Hilfiger, IZOD and Calvin Klein. The shirts will be made for a yet-to-be-named PVH brand and will also be sold under the MagnaReady label at PVH brands’ retail locations.”

Just doing it. …

The story behind how Nike came to design and offer an adapted athletic shoe is almost as good as the shoe itself. It dates to 2012, when then 16-year-old Matthew Walzer wrote a letter to Nike describing his frustration about being unable to tie his shoes because of his cerebral palsy. The letter found its way to a Nike employee named John Poyner who also has CP. Poyner made sure that Walzer’s letter was brought to the attention of designer Tobie Hatfield “who, coincidentally, was already working on an adaptive “entry-and-closure” system shoe for Special Olympians and Paralympians who had difficulty putting on and taking off shoes,” according to Jacob Kuerth, a writer for Paraquad. A few months later, Walzer received a pair of shoes that Hatfield had designed for with Walzer’s needs in mind.

“Over a three-year period, Hatfield perfected the design of the shoe that would eventually be introduced commercially as the Nike FLYEASE,” wrote Kuerth. “The shoe features a wrap-around zipper that opens the back of it near the heel. At the same time, the wrap-around zipper provides sufficient support and eliminates the need for laces.”

We love Lucy!

In 2016, Lucy Jones told the N.Y. Times that the idea to design clothes for wheelchair users came from a challenge from a teacher who asked students to design a product that would change the world. After talking with a 14-year-old cousin with hemiplegia, Jones learned that because of his disability, dressing himself was a daily struggle. Jones followed up the conversation with a meeting with people at Cerebral Palsy of NYC and focus groups with differently abled individuals, and was amazed to discover how many people shared her cousin’s problem.

Determined to find solutions, Jones created a collection of “minimal, elegant clothes for wheelchair users, taking into account both the altered proportions necessitated by being permanently seated, and the challenges of getting pieces on and off when one is physically impaired — or taking care of someone who is.”

The collection won Jones the honor of Parson School of Designs “designer of the year” in 2015.

While we’re pleased fashion designers are recognizing the needs of people with disabilities, it’s not all about good will. The market for adaptive clothing represents a huge business opportunity for the fashion industry. We’re glad they’re catching on!

Nothing Comes Between Stephanie Alves and her Adaptive Jeans

Photo of woman in wheelchair wearing ABL Denim

For 25 years, fashion designer, Stephanie Alves worked for large companies like Ann Taylor Loft and small companies like The Harari Collection.  She even owned a boutique in the East Village of New York City where she sold her own designs. Yet it was only after a family member endured two failed back surgeries and ended up using a wheelchair that she discovered her true calling.

“I went to visit my step-sister after the surgery and she told me that she didn’t even feel like getting dressed. It was just too hard,” recalls Alves. “So I said, ‘What if I just opened up the pants so they were easy to get on?’ After that, I started adapting clothing for other people with disabilities and I realized, ‘This is what I should be doing.’”  She started a business called the Able Tailor in 2010.

Over the next several years, Alves tailored clothes for customers with a range of disabilities, altering their clothing according to their individual needs. Finally, she felt she knew enough to design a line of adaptive clothing.

“I already had a small clothing line, so I knew about manufacturing and having my own design business.”

But Alves didn’t want to take on too much too fast.  ‘I’m going to focus on one clothing category,’” she said.  In order to determine what type of clothing she should offer, Alves asked her customers, ’what is the clothing you most miss wearing?’ Everyone said they most missed wearing [comfortable] jeans.” Alves founded ABL Denim with the help of a kickstarter campaign in 2013.

Designed for wheelchair users, ABL Denim’s jeans come in several styles, to suit diverse fashion tastes as well as the mobility and dexterity challenges of Alves’ customers. ABL Denim jeans, sweats and leggings are cut higher in the back than in the front so that they don’t creep down when the wearer is sitting. Additionally,  jeans for wheelchair users don’t have back pockets, since these can cause pressure sores for people sitting for long periods of time.  Some ABL Denim styles offer side zippers, elastic waists, draw strings and hook and bar waist closures to make dressing easier and wearing more comfortable.

About a year after she founded ABL Denim, Alves started to get requests for jeans from parents of children with autism, ADHD and sensory integration disorders. “I said, ‘I don’t know anything about designing for sensory issues. Tell me about it.’ I learned that some children have skin sensitivity and just can’t stand anything touching their skin. I found a child I could test the jeans on and I began designing “sensory jeans.”

ABL Denim’s sensory jeans are made of denim that’s so soft, it feels like a knit. The jeans’ elastic waistband and stitching is on the outside of the garment and won’t bother the child’s skin. For the same reason, there are no labels, zippers or inner pockets.  In addition to sensory jeans, Alves makes two types of shorts and denim leggings for children with sensory integration disorders.

The designer says that ABL Denim’s clothing line will soon expand to include other types of clothing such as professional attire.

Designers and retailers are finally catching on to the need for adaptive clothing,” says Alves, who is also cofounder of the Inclusive Design & Fashion Collective, a “small group of companies who design, manufacture, sell, and advocate for accessible, fashionable clothing and accessories.” Alves couldn’t be happier to be part of this new and necessary fashion trend.

“I can’t tell you  how gratifying it is when someone calls and says, ‘ Thank you! I haven’t been able to wear jeans for five years or even 20 years until now!’