Changing the world

[Image description: A model who uses a cane for mobility, walking down a runway. Credit: Michael Hansel]

There was a ringing in my ears, I couldn’t hold a single thought and my right hand could barely grip my cane. I couldn’t help but feel like my entire life had all lead me to this very moment, the moment I would step out onto an international runway and play a small role in changing the world.

There were millions of things that lead me to being involved in an inclusive runway but Bezgraniz Couture was the catalyst that got me to Los Angeles that October. Bezgraniz Couture is engaged in the creation of functional modern clothes and accessories for people with non-traditional body types. Their work is based around universal design. They were featured at Los Angeles Fashion Week where myself and nearly 20 other people took to the runway.

The term “universal design” was coined by the architect Ronald L. Mace to describe the concept of designing all products and environments to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone.

I am an activist for universal design. If we can embed universal design principles into areas like education, transport, media, town planning, technology, fashion, communication and into the products and industries we utilise every day, our lifestyles will change, the world will change.

The concept is based on a fundamental understanding that people are different and that no one should be left behind because of something as simple as circumstance.

Universal design and inclusive fashion is the future. It has to be. There are 7.4 billion people on earth, 1.27 billion of them identify as experiencing disability and on top of that our family and friends equal about 2.35 billion people. That means half of the population have a connection to disability.

Only a handful of leaders in various industries are successfully integrating universal design concepts into their work. Bezgraniz Couture is one of those leaders. Partnered with Fresh Blood and the British Higher School of Art and Design, they not only design and produce amazing pieces but they are educating as they go. Bezgraniz currently works with The British Higher School of Art and Design to educate fashion design students on universal design and how it applies to fashion.

While in LA I was also invited to a day long forum to discuss several topics relating to “rebranding disability for a global market”, specifically in fashion but also about inclusion and diversity in media. This forum was run by Bezgraniz Couture and sponsored by Mercedes Benz.

“It’s so great to see you all here today. I’m not sure if you know this but not one of you look the same.” Kurt Yeager.

The entire day was extraordinary. The discussion topics were necessary and the panelist’s responses were insightful. Kurt Yeager is an actor with disability and is based in Hollywood. Kurt spoke on the panel “Disability in Hollywood”. I loved everything that was said during that discussion and I learned a lot about the strides that have already been taken to improve disability representation in Hollywood, however I just couldn’t get over Kurt’s opening line. It’s so simple, so universal and in that moment I could see our global rebrand.

I got to the end of the runway and had no idea what to do. I felt self conscious and rushed. Just as I began to turn around and make my way back I made eye contact with a person in the front row, they said “you are perfect”. They made me smile and all of a sudden I remembered who I was and what I was there for.

My final steps were filled with purpose. The purpose of being a beautiful disabled woman challenging perceptions and stereotypes. The purpose of being a role model for other people in the disabled community. The purpose of being an activist for inclusion and universal design. The purpose of changing the world.

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I will challenge your perception of disability.

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Angel Dixon

Angel Dixon

I will challenge your perception of disability.

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