Disability, Identity, Sameness & Differentness: First Impressions of Clothing
Individuals with disabilities have aspirations to work and foster their independence like everyone else. Enduring images of disability as tragic, pitiful, negative and helpless promoted for charitable fund raising purposes (Taylor, 2008: 33) have made it challenging for people with disabilities to represent themselves as positive and able. This paper explores, through interviews and observations of people who are paraplegic/quadriplegic using wheelchairs and websites of specialized clothing, how the material culture of clothing is a barrier encountered by those who use wheelchairs relates to their success in the job interview process. Additionally, it considers the availability and access to aesthetically appropriate, functional clothing for those with a disability, i.e., adaptive clothing that allows people to achieve an aesthetically normative professional style of dress while still incorporating functional elements that facilitate independence in the workplace. Three different roles that clothing plays in the competitive job interview process are revealed.