Tamara Mena says becoming a wheelchair user didn’t change her desire to put together fashionable outfits and look good.

Tamara Mena says becoming a wheelchair user didn’t change her desire to put together fashionable outfits and look good.

Razz Cue, a 52-year-old writer from Las Vegas and a C5-6 incomplete quadriplegic, generally settles for off-the-rack clothing but finds the selection rarely meets his specific needs. “Some designs work better than others, but I wish I could find pants with higher backs, longer legs and no back pockets, so I could sit comfortably and look stylish.”

Like many people with disabilities, Cue finds the process of shopping a bit annoying. He buys a bunch of different items, tries them on at home, and returns the ones that fit funky. If he does find something that fits well and looks good, he buys several copies in various colors.  “Finding something that really works isn’t easy, so when I do, the goal is to get many years’ worth,” he says.

Ronnie Raymond, 63, a United Spinal Association board member and wheelchair user due to multiple sclerosis, has found clothes specifically made for people with disabilities are often not very fashionable. “Most designs are so utilitarian that they are boring,” she says. Like most people, Raymond wants fashion that fits her style and her body and makes her stand out in a positive way. She is frustrated that in the past there has hardly been anything available for someone like her. “If I wanted to look good, I simply had to have my clothes made, or have clothes that were made for a nondisabled person altered to fit me.”

“I think that every person with a disability has different needs. Therefore, it is difficult to address us as a group.” –Ronnie Raymond, United Spinal Association board member, shown participating in Runway of Dreams’ Inaugural Gala

“I think that every person with a disability has different needs. Therefore, it is difficult to address us as a group.” –Ronnie Raymond, United Spinal Association board member, shown participating in Runway of Dreams’ Inaugural Gala. Photo by Getty Images.

Tamara Mena has experienced similar issues. Mena is a bilingual motivational speaker, host, and model. She has always enjoyed dressing up, and that didn’t change when she found herself paralyzed from the chest down after an auto accident. “I have always loved fashion. Ever since I was young, I loved putting outfits together. Just because I am now in a wheelchair, it does not mean I don’t like looking good, put together and fashionable.”

As a bride to be, Mena was especially disheartened when it came to finding a wedding dress. “It was not fun going to look at wedding dresses. I had to worry about so many other things that other able-bodied brides don’t have to. Sure, I had to think about the look I wanted and my body type, but more importantly, I had to think, ‘will it work with my wheelchair?’ Mena found it very frustrating because often the dress that works with the wheelchair was not always the one she liked the most.

Like so many others, Mena wishes she wasn’t stuck with that conundrum. “Wouldn’t it be awesome to have more designers consider the wheelchair or atypical body configurations and do something about it?”