I love clothes…probably a little too much in fact. My closet is a constantly-rotating group of shirts and dresses (but mostly shirts) because I run out of room for what I buy and thus, have to get rid of things I no longer wear to make room. My pile of jeans is currently stacked too high for all of them to fit in one pile anymore.
My love of clothes goes back to my younger days when I was trying to use my outward appearance as a way to get people to look past my disability and accept me. These days it’s much less about that and much more about my love of feeling good in what I wear.
All this being said, as a person with a disability, clothes shopping is not an easy endeavor by any means. If I grab too many items and there’s no cart, I often pile my arms too high which becomes insanely heavy and oftentimes leads to me dropping stuff on the floor that I then have to strain my back to bend over and pick up.
Then there’s the actual trying on part…I hate trying clothes on but I won’t ever buy anything without trying it on unless I already own the exact same item. It takes twice as much effort to have to take something back after taking it home and finding out it doesn’t fit. Shirts can be challenging but the most difficult part by far, is trying on pants. I’m not able to lift my legs high enough to grab the legs of the pants I’m wearing to be able to get them off. If there’s a seat that’s not too low in the dressing room, I can sit on that and proceed as needed. But if there’s not, I have two options: push the pants down and then step on the opposite leg with each foot to get them off (which usually involves repeating this action over several times). This leads to them being inside out so then I have to get them right side out again after. Option 2 is straining back to bend over and get them off of my foot and ankle. Neither option is very easy and they’re both extremely frustrating. I try to wear slip on shoes like flats whenever I go shopping too otherwise that’s another added step I have to try finagle.
At this point, you may be asking yourself why I’m telling you about how I get my pants off in a dressing room. I’m sharing this part of what I deal with as a person with a disability because I don’t think people always realize how difficult even the smallest stuff can be. When you’re in a wheelchair, it can be even more difficult to do things like get dressed. Most people probably go into a dressing room, never thinking twice about any of the process. But when you have a disability, it’s another added level of challenge.
You would think this difficulty would hinder my shopping habit, but surprisingly it doesn’t. I’m sure my wallet wishes it would though. I don’t share all this to be a Negative Nancy, but I am sharing it because it sheds light on how hard even the most “simple” of things can be when you have a disability. I don’t want to just focus the big challenges: the stairs, the falling, the physical pain, travel. I want to share the seemingly smaller stuff that can be really hard too. Sometimes those can be the most frustrating. I’d love to be able to try on a pair of pants without having to look like I’m doing a hoedown to get them off my legs and ankles.