Hello, I’m Panagiotis and am thirty seven years old. I have used a wheelchair for the past twenty three years. I’m from Greece, born and lived here all my life. I have learned a lot because of having a disability. From my life experience I believe it’s time to change the way all people think about the fashion industry.
Back in 1995, when I I was fourteen years old I was in a car accident that changed my life. It was a shock for me and my family. I remained in the hospital and then in a rehab center for months. I had to learn a new way of life and a new type of walking. I had to learn everything from the beginning. Thankfully, all those months I had the support of my family and friends. I started school after six months and found meaning in life again.
I would never have thought that someday I would need adaptive clothes for disability. As a young teenager, before my accident, I liked to play soccer and basketball, so the clothes I chose were always from athletics brands. I never had to think about my clothes.
Now, after my accident, I play wheelchair basketball and I have to think about what clothes can work for me. When I play in a seated position I need my body to breath and not to slice. What I mean by ‘slice’ is that I have realized that my skin can start to open due to the rubbing on cushion. This means that I need something more to protect my skin. My clothing needs are not just about sports, though. Another example is when I want to use the toilet. I need something easier to manage than a zipper. Mostly, I need something comfortable and easy to wear.
Fast forward years later, I have learned to love my body like it is. I have also started to make new friends – some who face challenges like mine, to talk with people openly about my disability and to learn about how they manage things in their life. One of the most impactful experiences in my life since I became disabled was when I took part in a camp sponsored by a non-profit organization where I met peer mentors that helped me to see outside of the box. That experience taught me to accept my new body and to become interested in my clothes and my style again. It is important to me to wear good quality clothes that are comfortable for my disability.
I believe I don’t need to hide anything, just flaunt it and fashion should help in this. Runway of Dreams is doing great work out there encouraging mainstream brands to adapt their clothing lines for people with disabilities. I believe it is important to change the way of thinking about clothes and people with disabilities should consider not only wearing adaptive clothes, but even working for the fashion industry.