Braille and disability are often stigmatized as a disadvantage. Focusing on blindness specifically, research indicates that only 25% of daily obstacles directly relate to the sensory disability, where as the other 75% deals with the negative interactions blind individuals have with the sighted. This oppression is further worsened through current fashion clothing products, since most fashionable apparel attends to the needs of sighted users. Clothing is used to express a distinct and desired identity, but due to the lack of research on disabled individuals as consumers, the prominent identity that is displayed is that of disability.
My research focused specifically on the question: How can the incorporation of Braille and universal design increase the value and availability of accessible consumer packaged fashion clothing for both blind and sighted users? To ensure proper needs were met, I worked closely with seven blind participants through a co-design process, which helped to identify the current unmet needs of blind consumers and to explore the integration of Braille in fashion to create products targeted to a diverse audience.
In this study, small beads were added to the exterior of clothing to form phrases in Braille that communicate clothing characteristics to blind individuals, such as a garment’s colour, size and care content. This application of beading enhances the fashionable aspect of the garment for sighted individuals, while increasing its function beyond aesthetic value for blind individuals. All products and concepts in this research study are patent pending.