Non-Profit Works to Narrow the Workforce Gap Between Retail Industry and People with Disabilities

ANKENY, Iowa  --  In a report by Central Iowa Works, the three occupations most in need of workers in Central Iowa are in banking, the food industry, and retail.

Disability Rights Iowa is focusing on the fashion retail industry Wednesday and they are collaborating with the DMACC Fashion Institute to both encourage those with disabilities to apply for jobs in the fashion and retail industry but also encourage designers to develop disability-friendly clothes that are both comfortable and fashionable.

“When people with disabilities are going to work, they need clothes that they can put on quickly, early in the morning to get ready for work, but also to look great,” Disability Rights Iowa Executive Director Jane Hudson said.

DMACC fashion design students worked with three models, all women with disabilities, to create work appropriate clothing.

“There are 300 thousand people with disabilities in Iowa and many of them could join the workforce, we just have to say welcome,” Hudson said.

The fashion student had to welcome a new way of thinking about design.

“It’s just not drawing on paper it’s thinking about the person and how they’re going to feel when they wear it,” DMACC Fashion Design Student Catalina Hernandez said.

Hernandez’s model uses a wheelchair so she wanted pants that wouldn’t easily slide down.

“So instead of it just being a traditional flat pants, Gretchen was able to add an extended back length,” Hernandez said.

Designers said it’s about comfortability and accessibility, but above all… feeling good about how you look.

“One model has an uneven stance with her shoulder stature so thinking about incorporating shoulder pads, so she gets that even look with her garment, so she feels like she fits in with everybody else,” DMACC Fashion Institute Instructor Gretchen Bohling said.

One of the models uses a vocal communicator, which can be heavy at times.

“I made a design of a purse almost, to go over the shoulders, with soft fabric and then it has an opening for the device,” DMACC Fashion Design Student Lill Delin said. “Just the process of it and watching them and be part of all that, it’s priceless.”

The models will be showcasing their outfits Wednesday at the Narrowing the Gap event. There are not any tickets left, but this is an annual event and next year they will focus on a different occupation in need of workforce.

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