I thought I’d write this as a post to refer back to when I do reviews, just so I’m not constantly repeating myself. Also I’m hoping it might serve as useful for manufacturers if they want to look at how disability can affect which products are bought.
I guess for most people thinking about accessibility tends to bring up images of ramps for wheelchairs, hearing loops and braille. I know that’s how I used to think of it when I was younger, it didn’t occur to me just how many things can be affected by disability. I’m not going to go into every possible permutation of accessibility, I suspect that’d be a lifelong job, but I do want to talk about what it means to me.
If you are new to my blog you should know that I have a chronic pain condition caused by hypermobility in my joints. I am still waiting on a formal diagnosis, but it looks like I’m going to be diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type (or just Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, which is essentially EDS-HT by another name). A huge amount of the population are hypermobile to one degree or another, you may know it as double-jointed, but for a few unlucky ones it becomes a lot more serious. For some of us our joints are far too loose, which results in pain both from muscles having to work harder than usual all the time, and from dislocations and partial-dislocations (otherwise known as subluxations). There are also associated health problems, though these vary quite a lot amongst sufferers. For the purpose of this blog I’m just going to talk about the symptoms that I experience and how that affects my interaction with beauty and fashion products.
My main symptoms are a stiffness in my muscles where they are so overworked, the main area affected is my upper spine where my muscles are having to work a lot harder just to hold me upright. Lying down flat on my back is the only real respite those muscles get. This makes it difficult to raise my arms up, twist, or basically perform any movement that moves my upper spine – and you’d be amazed by how many things involve your upper spine! I also get severe wrist and elbow pain, which occasionally extends in to my fingers, it’s possible I have slight arthritis in my fingers. In addition my pelvis is damaged after two pregnancies combined with the EDS which means more pain plus partial dislocations of my hips. My knees are also affected, though not as badly, still my kneecaps occasionally dislocate partially.
Because of all this pain I am often quite fatigued, and I run out of “spoons”. (You really should read Spoon Theory, but if you want a really quick demonstration go here.) This is relevant because it means that I am not often in a position to do something that requires a lot of effort, preferring something easier just so it doesn’t impact on the rest of my day.
With that in mind there are a few things I look for in products.
I need these to be easy to use, if it’s going to be fiddly or time consuming it’s often a no go for me. For example I find plucking eyebrows hard work because just keeping my hands up to my face puts a lot of strain on my back and shoulders. Same goes for hair, while I love the way braids look I can rarely do anything complex with them just due to not being able to hold my arms up long enough. If I do decide to attempt a braided hairstyle I need to be able to let go of the braids often enough to rest my arms/shoulders/back.
Then of course the fiddlier products cause my wrists and finger immense pain, and if I have to do fiddly work it best be a quick job because otherwise my hands are going to start shaking with the muscle strain/pain. I can also be quite clumsy because of the looseness in my joints, sometimes I just lose my grip.
Fastenings – oh fastenings – if you have a dress which does up at the back I need assistance putting it on. Often I choose dresses with a bit of give just so I can put them on over my head and save having to ask for help, while it may not seem a big deal to just ask someone else to do the zip I have to ask for help so often for so many mundane tasks I prefer to hold on to the ability to do things for myself as much as possible.
Buttons are another faff. If my hands hurt I’m not even going to try buttons. On those days I want something easy I can throw over my head.
On the other hand if it’s my back being particularly bad I’m not going to be able to lift my arms over my head, so would prefer something I can slip on while my arms stay below the level of my shoulders.
Hips are another issue, if my hip keeps slipping I’m not going to attempt tights or trousers, too much possibility for partial dislocation. Skirts please!
Hips also affect my ability to put on shoes, I much prefer shoes I can slip on, because bending to reach fastenings can be excruciating.
As you can see, my wardrobe has to be carefully thought about, not just in terms of fit and style, but also functionality. Comfort isn’t a choice for me, it’s a necessity.
When I review things for my blog I will try to draw attention to features which help or hinder me in terms of my health. For example if I find an item of clothing difficult to put on, or an accessory is too fiddly. These may not be criticisms, but they are something to be aware of, and I would absolutely love if companies designed products with it in mind.