British Vogue breaks new ground this month by creating five different covers for its May issue titled “Reframing Disability: Dynamic, Daring and Disabled.”
The covers feature photos of five noteworthy individuals with disabilities including model Ellie Goldstein who has Down syndrome (above); model, author and activist Aaron Rose Philip who has cerebral palsy; actor and disability advocate Selma Blair who has multiple sclerosis; American Sign Language interpreter and performer Justina Miles who is deaf; and Sinéad Burke, CEO of the accessibility consultancy Tilting the Lens and contributing editor for the May issue, who has dwarfism.
Inside the magazine are photos and editorial coverage about fascinating people in the disability community like Jessikah Inaba, the U.K.’s first Black and blind barrister; Rosaleen McDonagh, a writer and human rights commissioner with CP; and Musa Motho, a dancer who lost his leg due to bone cancer.
Overall, the issue features 19 individuals with disabilities.
Historically, the fashion industry has been notoriously homogeneous and fashion magazines have been widely criticized for their narrow definitions of beauty. Yet, in recent years, some fashion designers have begun to recognize that disabled people represent a huge segment of the population and clothing market. Designers such as Tommy Hilfiger, and brands like Target and Lands’ End now design adaptive clothing for individuals with disabilities. Likewise, fashion editors such as British Vogue’s Edward Enninful, are committed to championing diversity and inclusivity in the pages of their magazines.
As the first male editor-in-chief of British Vogue since its founding in 1916, Enninful has featured models of all sizes, races, gender identities and abilities in the publication. He is also known for turning away fashion advertisers that he deems not inclusive enough. In fact, Enninful went so far as to tell the Guardian, that “he was prepared to take a financial hit to support values of diversity and inclusivity in his magazine.”
In his 2022 memoir, “A Visible Man” (Penguin Publishing Book) Enninful revealed that he is visually and hearing impaired and lives with a blood disorder. As he told the BBC last month, “It was so important I could relate—I felt real pride that people can actually speak up about disabilities and not have to hide it and how it impacts them. I think this is one of the most incredible issues I’ve had the privilege of editing in my tenure.”
Editing the issue, and in particular, working with Sinead Burke also taught Enninful a great deal about the accessibility challenges faced by disabled people as they go about their lives, said the BBC article.
“Sinéad taught me that retail spaces are quite unfriendly to people with disabilities and that photographic studios are not designed to cater for them. She has really opened my eyes and taught me that a whole group of people are being ignored.”
Enninful believes that the more the public understands about the lives of disabled people, the more inclusive the fashion industry and society at large will become.
Photo of Ellie Goldstein for VOGUE UK by Adama Jalloh