Bringing art, design and accessibility together

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Disabled women who are trained tailors participated in the launch of the design initiative at Vidyasagar in Chennai on Tuesday.
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Disabled women who are trained tailors participated in the launch of the design initiative at Vidyasagar in Chennai on Tuesday. Photo credit: Velankani Raj B

S. Gajalakshmi breaks into a smile when asked how she stitched the designer blouse she is wearing. “The design on the sleeves, along with the special embroidery and work was conceptualized by me. I walk with crutches, so I had to keep that in mind and tailor the dress so that it would be comfortable for me. ,” he said.

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Exploring the integration of art, design and accessibility, SciArtRUs, a California-based non-profit initiative ‘Project Designability’ aims to highlight designer apparel that is not only fashionable but also accessible and adaptable. Marking the launch of this initiative, SciArtRUs partnered with Chennai-based tailoring and designing unit Vidhya’s Comfort Designs and stitched 100 designer blouses, which were given to members of Society for Rights of Women with Disabilities (SFRD).

“While we were keen to showcase artistic and designer tailoring, we felt the focus should also be on how we can make it accessible and women-friendly,” said Ranjini Kaushik, president of SciArtRUs. All seamstresses and tailors globally should be introduced to create accessible clothing.

Women members who received designer blouses met Vidyasagar, an organization that works with the disabled in Kotorpuram, ahead of International Women’s Day on Tuesday, making it a unique celebration. R Nagalakshmi, a make-up artist who is also disabled, worked with her team and offered free make-up services.

B Divya from Vidhya’s Comfort Designs said that they have taken into consideration their requests for accessible and adaptable features in apparel. “We haven’t made blouses or dresses like this before and it was a learning opportunity for us as well, to make accessible clothes. We are ready to make any adaptations that are necessary for people with disabilities, going forward,” she said. Adaptations included replacing hooks or zippers with Velcro strips and changing the sleeve pattern to make the garment easier to wear.

While Gajalakshmi made her own designer blouse, the main focus of the project was to get many other women to do the same. Talking about Project Designability, Smitha Sidashiyum, Cross Disability Inclusion and Accessibility Facilitator said that they are looking for support to uplift 100 women members of SFRWD and enable them to make designer garments like designer blouses. are “These women are already trained in basic tailoring and once they are trained, they can offer tailoring services for designer clothes and earn a stable livelihood,” she said.

Poonam Natarajan, founder of Vidyasagar, said that while institutions like the National Institute of Fashion Technology have been exploring accessible fashion for years, more initiatives are still on the margins and isolated.

“Accessible and adaptable clothing is essential to freedom. When these women are trained, they can wear fashionable and accessible clothing themselves, as well as use their designer skills for a living.” ”

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