Adaptive clothing is clothing specifically created for people with disabilities; this could be a physical disability or invisible disability such as chronic illnesses, but in general adaptive clothing is designed for anyone who has trouble dressing. This difficulty in dressing may present itself in a person having trouble with closures (buttons, hook and eyes, and zippers) because of limited hand dexterity, trouble with “over-the-head” dresses, blouses and shirts because of limited shoulder mobility, or inability to wear pants because of uncomfortable seam and rivet placements on the butt for wheelchair users. There are a lot more nuanced and specific examples and it’s good to keep in mind that the word “adaptive clothing” doesn’t refer to just one type of disability or body function and type, but rather is a general term to indicate that a clothing item is made for people who do not fit the conventions of the clothing industry
Adaptive clothing can be purposefully designed for people with disabilities, such as a button down shirt with magnetic buttons, which was designed with the intent to solve the problems of people who cannot use regular buttons. Other clothing items are “adaptive” for disabled people perhaps without the seller even knowing. “Super soft,” “prewashed,” and “tagless” shirts are great for people with sensory sensitivity and it adapted to their needs. Often sellers do not even use keywords like “sensory friendly” or “adaptive” to market their products, so it can be hard to find. Along the same line, period panties (sold on our site, just got to panties) are not traditionally marketed to disabled women; but period panties are excellent for women who have a hard time changing sanitary products. Many clothing items are “adaptive” in their own right, but aren’t marketed as so. So the term “adaptive clothing” really refers to garments designed to ease the dressing needs of disabled people.
Adaptive clothing has been around for a while, often in the form of medical accessories. Compression stocking, cooling vests, and side opening hospital slips or shirts are all examples of “adaptive clothing.” But with adaptive apparel coming to the mainstream culture in stores such as Target, Tommy Hilfiger and Zappos, let’s hope the days of ugly archaic adaptive clothing is over. The best type of adaptive apparel is fashionable and functional.
We’ve highlighted a glossary of adaptive clothing terms from Disabled World, below, to help you with some key words you may want to know before shopping.
- What are Cut-away Garments?This where the seat of the garment has been "cut away" providing easier personal care by the caregiver and comfort for the wearer.
- What are Back-flap Pants?These are pants designed with fabric that overlaps at the seat and is attached by snaps at the waist to allow for ease in self-toileting for the wheelchair user.
- What are Foot Orthoses?Foot orthoses comprise a custom made insert or foot-bed fitted into a shoe. Commonly referred to as "orthotics"these orthoses provide support for the foot by redistributing ground reaction forces as well as realigning foot joints while standing, walking or running.
- What are One-piece Jumpsuits?These are defined as garments having back zipper access to prevent the wearer from disrobing inappropriately and assist in toileting and personal care needs for the individual.
- What are Rear Closure Garments?These are special clothing items that open down the back to facilitate dressing people who cannot raise their arms over their head to put on a shirt or dress, or who are confined to a wheelchair or bed.
- What are Side Snap Pants?Side snap pants feature snaps on both sides of the pants at the waistband providing ample room for care and dressing comfort, and making the waist area adjustable.
- What are Side-zip Garments?Side-zip garments feature zippers down both sides allowing greater ease in dressing and facilitates the transfer process in toileting.