A Swindon based charity which specialises in adapting clothing for people with disabilities and the elderly will celebrate its tenth anniversary in September, writes Simone Miche.
Dressability is definitely one of Swindon’s secrets and founder Sian Barrie believes it is the only service of its kind in the South of England.
As a carer herself she started adapting clothing in her spare bedroom in response to requests from people with disabilities who found it hard to find clothes that are easy to put on and fit well.
“Most clothing is designed for upright, mobile people who conform to standard sizes and bodyshapes and who can fasten buttons and zips,” said Sian.
“If you are a wheelchair user who spends the day sitting down, most garments are not designed for you. If you have limited manual dexterity zips and buttons can be difficult and if you are a non-standard shape then ordinary clothing will draw attention to physical differences.
“Isn’t it ironic that tracksuit trousers and sweatshirts – designed for activity – are often worn by people with disabilities because they are manageable? We try to help people feel normal and look stylish.”
In 2000 Dressability received funding from the National Lottery to enable the service to become a fully resourced clothing service and a registered charity.
One of three similar services in the UK, it is the only one which sends staff to the client’s home to discuss needs and take measurements so as to minimise travel and inconvenience to the disabled person and their carer.
In 2006, with a further grant from the Big Lottery Fund, we launched a clothing alteration service specifically for people over 60 living in Swindon.
Last year Sian and her three part-time co-workers adapted over 500 garments to suit different requirements.
“We know the impact Dressability has to someone’s life,” said Sian. “Comfort and ease of use, combined with choice and style, gives our customers confidence to do more for themselves which in turn gives them more control and boosts self-esteem.”
To find out more about Dressability and to offer volunteer seamstress skills, call Sian on 01793 485374.
Left, showing off adapted garments, Sian, front, with, from left, Azian Ahmad, volunteer, Liza Lishman, project worker, Beryl Fitzgerald, volunteer, Pamela Chadwick, project worker