The ADA, Fashion & Disability on NPR

Posted on July 21, 2015

Update: J. Crew told NPR that they will not be selling a cane, as they are focusing on their ‘core business’. At this time, it seems we have a hard no. I will be responding to J. Crew on The Seams podcast, airing on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. I’m both heartbroken and more determined than ever. I do believe there is a mainstream retailer that can and will embrace their diverse and disabled customer base. If you’re that retailer, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Update: It just aired! I hope you will take a moment to check out “From Canes To Closures, Designing With Style For People With Disabilities“.

For the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a special report (featuring Yours Truly) will air on NPR on Saturday, July 25th. This will be followed by an extended look on The Seams podcast on Sunday, July 26th. Check out the Press Release below and don’t miss Weekend Edition with Scott Simon this coming Saturday, July 25th.

You can find your local NPR member station and its Saturday schedule here. Weekend Edition airs on WNYC from 8-10am in NYC.

Special Thanks to Jacki Lyden of The Seams and NPR for seeing the impact fashion can have on disability (and visa versa). She found an incredible way to report on the 25th anniversary of the ADA by covering what she loves most. Clothing.

I’m so honored to leave my little impact on this important celebration. Fingers crossed J. Crew will be commenting on YesJCrewCane.

LOOKING AT THE FUTURE OF FUNCTIONAL FASHION FOR EVERY BODY: The Seams Reports on Creating Clothes for the Disabled

Washington, D.C., July 25 — The Seams, an independent podcast and occasional story series for NPR, explores the business of fashion for the disabled in its newest story, set to air Saturday, July 25, on NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon.

Signed into law on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has vastly improved the lives of the 60 million Americans who live with a permanent disability by mandating better access in housing, transportation and workplaces. But clothing for the disabled has not kept pace. For its latest story, The Seams talked to aspiring designers from Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology, both in New York City, about how they are working to design and produce fashions tailored specifically to the needs of the disabled.

The Seams also interviewed potential customers for these designers, like Air Force veteran Anna Smith. Smith, who uses a wheelchair and a cane, expressed frustration about the lack of practical, stylish clothing, observing, “We get ponchos that make us look like umbrellas, not styles that are unique and interesting.” Another advocate, 33-year-old Liz Jackson, calls herself and her blog The Girl With the Purple Cane. She lobbies mainstream retailers like J.Crew to better cater to disabled customers.

“From the beginning, The Seams has wanted to look at clothing inclusively,” says Lyden. “Our motto is ‘Clothing is our common thread. In every stitch, a story.’ Disability fashion and the desire to look good are interwoven. What we found with the veterans is they want to look polished and current, to wear flattering clothes that work for them and their lives.”

The Seams series on NPR was started in 2014 by former NPR correspondent and host Jacki Lyden, who looks at fashion as culture, politics, business, entertainment and history. The Seams is also a biweekly podcast, and a more in-depth look at diability and fashion will run on podcast, available on July 26 from iTunes:

Find out more about The Seams at

P.S. Check out this amazing Pinterest page The Seams compiled. It’s full of Disability Fashion.


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What Others Are Saying

  1. Stephanie July 25, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Where did you get your cane? My husband needs one and I may too someday. He’s into things that are fashionable!

  2. Carol Web July 26, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    I loved the NPR piece, Liz, and what you are doing for disability fashion! I couldn’t help but noticing that your condition sounds a lot like Lyme disease. My daughter has Lyme (and has wanted a cool looking cane too) and has a lot of the same symptoms.

    • The Girl with the Purple Cane July 26, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Thank you Carol! Isn’t it mind boggling how so many of these autoimmune conditions tend to mirror one another? I can’t express how much a cool looking cane has the potential to change your daughter’s outlook. All the best to you two.

  3. Tracy August 22, 2015 at 5:05 am

    Have you considered Patagonia as an option? Progressive, creative thinking from the start of this company. They might be more receptive.

  4. Alanamous August 24, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    I find it pretty frustrating whenever somebody gives me a brush off and a lousy excuse. In this case, JCrew has shown that they don’t care much for their clientele, but rather for their bottom line. For years JCrew mass produced clothing which was fashionable but mainly only rugged for the menswear line. I balked at their high prices and t-shirts and jeans which wore out in less than a season. It took too long, in my opinion, for them to come around to care about what consumers wanted and seemed as though only plunging sales made a difference in their approach. Now, you have been making a concerted and valiant effort to show them how they can be ahead of the curve and take into consideration a wider range of consumer’s fashion needs. But they seem to fear whether a cane would be profitable and have given you a line about that not being part of their “core business”. Well, I didn’t realize that iPhone Cases, USB cables, speakers, film and cameras were part of their “core business” and more marketable than canes.

    (Or if that link is no longer live, here’s a screenshot )
    I call steer feces.

    As for a more customer conscientious company, L.L. Bean has been a company who has understood that form follows function and has seemed to have a vested interest in their customers. I’d also consider Lands End as someone else to contact. But I do completely understand why you would want to continue to pursue J. Crew. I’m just suggesting you may want to consider branching out as well to alternative sources so you can see who else might be more customer conscious. I do love Patagonia though. Not sure how Eddie Bauer is as far as listening to consumers.

    It might be worth it to spread your pursuit to more brands and have it be a sort of litmus test for which companies do acknowledge that a wider view should be considered when it comes to fashionable accessories. They have already branched out into cell phone cases, so why not canes? Or even more limited, speakers. How do they know that more consumers would be interested in speakers than canes? Canes are something which are sold at every drug store but the same cannot be said for speakers and cell phone covers. So which item is REALLY more likely to be sold?

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