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U.S. study of Disabled fashion student experiences

The voices of today’s Disabled fashion students have been foundational in crafting the vision and goals of the Parsons Disabled Fashion Student Program.

We interviewed 35 Disabled students enrolled in fashion programs across the United States to understand their experiences in fashion school and the ways it can be improved.

Results from this research will be used to develop practices that best support the incoming Disabled students in the program and at Parsons at large.

12 models, including 2 wheelchair users and a baby, wearing neon and holographic spandex clothing dance on a platform stage in Gallery 400 with graphic geometric shapes painted on the floor.

Image Description: 12 models, including 2 wheelchair users and a baby, wearing neon and holographic spandex clothing dance on a platform stage in Gallery 400 with graphic geometric shapes painted on the floor.

“Hopefully, somewhere along the line, my path will lead the way for someone else to follow in my footsteps and have a slightly easier time. Kind of the whole concept of ‘water can carve a path into rock.’”

“I think I can use my experiences, both positive and negative, as material evidence of a need.”

Centering Disability experiences and accessibility

Students shared with us the benefits that their disability experiences bring to their fashion work, the barriers they face in fashion school, and their dreams for the future of fashion education that is accessible and welcoming of the Disability experience. 

Aaron Rose Philip, a Black woman with small, waist-length braids smiling wide on the runway in her power wheelchair. She is wearing wide leg ripped denim jeans, a white sheer bralette, and a tulle layered skirt with green and pink accents designed by Collina Strada. There are dried flowers jutting out of the frame of her chair.

Image Description: Aaron Rose Philip, a Black woman with small, waist-length braids smiling wide on the runway for Collina Strada in her power wheelchair. She is wearing wide leg ripped denim jeans, a white sheer bralette, and a tulle layered skirt with green and pink accents designed by Collina Strada. There are dried flowers jutting out of the frame of her chair.

“I think it's redundant to keep thinking of the body as something for the eyes. It's more about feel, about touch. It's a home that we live in.”

“Having a disability definitely gives me a unique angle and perspective … I'm figuring out what would work for myself. It's not just a hypothetical… I can figure out if it would work or not.”

Sinéad, a white, Queer, physically Disabled woman with brown shoulder-length hair wearing a slate blue Gucci suit. A small red embroidered patch on the left sleeve reads "Gucci Sinéad Burke." To her left is a small end table with a brown leather Gucci handbag and a gold metal lamp.

Image Description: Sinéad, a white, Queer, physically Disabled woman with brown shoulder-length hair wearing a slate blue Gucci suit. A small red embroidered patch on the left sleeve reads "Gucci Sinéad Burke." To her left is a small end table with a brown leather Gucci handbag and a gold metal lamp.

Supporting disabled fashion students at Parsons

Results from this research will be used to develop practices that best support the incoming Disabled students in the program and at Parsons in general. We will also use the results to develop a framework and strategies to recruit, support, mentor and build community among Disabled fashion students at Parsons.

"Without my disability, I probably wouldn't even do fashion."

“Sometimes your disability is your superpower”

Supporting Disabled students at other fashion schools

Additionally, we will share these findings with other fashion schools with the intention of reshaping the foundation of fashion education by supporting the inclusion of Disabled fashion students in the US and around the world.

Sinéad, a white, Queer, physically Disabled woman with slicked back brown hair wears a custom Burberry trenchcoat that is haphazardly cut in the front above the knee. The back of the coat is still attached. She is holding a pair of oversized open scissors.

Image Description: Sinéad Burke on the cover of Business of Fashion in 2018. Sinéad, a white, Queer, physically Disabled woman with slicked back brown hair wears a custom Burberry trenchcoat that is haphazardly cut in the front above the knee. The back of the coat is
still attached. She is holding a pair of oversized open scissors.

We invite applications by March 15, 2024 for the Fall 2024 semester

Apply now for the Disabled Fashion Student Program.