Awareness. Are We Really Ever Fully Aware?

I started Differently Enabled from my own personal experience. By sharing that, I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn) many other personal experiences. And together we have a must stronger voice.

At the first meeting of Differently Enabled I said, “We are not a charity. We are not an advocacy group. We are a commercial for profit fashion house.”

After meeting with a few of our Brand Champions, the very next week I corrected myself at our second team meeting. “We are not a charity, and we are a commercial for profit fashion house. However, we ARE an advocacy group.”

Once you hear the stories of people living with disability, you cannot NOT add to their voice. At least I can’t.

For me, once you learn something, to benefit from it you have to act on that knowledge.

I started Differently Enabled from my own personal experience. By sharing that, I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn) many other personal experiences. And together we have a must stronger voice.

I recently attended Victoria Jenkins’ Unhidden LFW show. Unhidden is born from Victoria’s personal experience. And to help others have their own personal experience living with disability, she staged the entrance to her show to reflect what it’s like entering a building that is “accessible” but not inclusive.

To be honest, I was so wrapped up in being on time for the show, I almost missed her point.

Allow me to explain.

For those of you who live in London, it comes as no surprise that you can get to Brighton’s seaside, or Lille France in the same time it takes to cross town West to East. I live on the West Side of London (near Kensington Palace). The Unhidden show was at the Kurt Geiger Showroom in Islington — a little over 4 miles from me to the North & East.

We gave ourselves an hour to travel there. And yes, it did take that long. However as we were departing, I re-checked the invitation, and to my horror it declared that proof of a negative COVID test was required for entry. Thankfully we had 2 in the flat, BUT these things take time. Upon passing the tests, and photographing the results we took off.

Nothing to be done if we are late. The invite stated that the show started promptly at 7. It was nearly 6 when we tore off.

As the car pulled to the curb, I noted that we had 5 mins to spare.

Where was number 24? It’s actually located in a courtyard and so we had a few missteps to find it.

As we entered the courtyard, I saw a security guard standing at the entrance to the building. I had attended Victoria’s last show, and so I suddenly recalled the entrance, and the queue last time as we had to descend a grand curved spiral staircase, at the bottom of which invitations were checked.

Now there was no queue, and I thought, “Oh no, are we too late, and will this security guard tell us the door is closed?” At the same time, I heard people behind me and I looked back to see a handful of well dressed women scurrying behind us. Maybe we are just in time?

As we approached the door, the security guard said to us, the show entrance is actually to your left, around the corner, and then to the right on the next street.

Pshew, I thought. We’ve made it. But how odd that the invitation didn’t list the correct door address. We could have had the car let us out over there and saved some time (and a few steps thought the man who still struggles with long walks post COVID).

The women behind us were told the same, and then ahead to our left we saw a group coming back clearly lost. So the security guard left his post and escorted us.

Wow a lot of us are late, I thought. And it’s a good thing he’s walking us because this is far and not straight forward.

Finally with more than a NY city block circled, we arrived to a service entrance littered with trash, torn flyers on the door, a small table with two people seated and a couple of people standing near the door with clipboards. I’ve just been in NY so I’m used to an unpleasant entryway (LOL) so I thought nothing of it. “Are we on time?” was still my driving force.

I stopped at the table, and the woman there asked me if I had proof of a negative COVID test. We showed ours and we then proceeded to the clipboard list and were ushered it. It wasn’t until later that I learned that the box on the table contained COVID tests and for a fee (going to a charity) you could have one taken there (had you missed the fine print on the invitation like I ALMOST did).

Inside, the lift door was covered with posters that it was out of order. The walls were lined with colour copies of news articles on the state of living with disability in the UK.
“Report Finds Voter ID System in England Led to Racial and Disability Discrimination”
“Warning Over Early Deaths of Learning Disabled”
“Rights on Flights: The Campaign Changing The Way The Aviation Industry Treats Disabled People”
“Google Maps Makes Wheelchair Accessibility Information Visible to Everyone”
“Appeal Court Overturns Disability Strategy Ruling”

Alright, I thought. You go girl! Victoria is not afraid to make a political statement at her show!

We were seated, said hello to a few nearby friends and soon the show was underway.

After the show we were all invited to enjoy a bit of non-alcoholic tipple, and we mingled saying hello to industry colleagues, friends and a few new faces.

But it wasn’t until we were leaving that it hit me like a bucket of cold water over my head.

I suddenly saw that the flyers on the lift and the entrance were Unhidden branded. I recalled the Grand Spiral Staircase. The building is not inclusive.

Victoria had forced each guest to have that personal experience: to feel what it is like to be admitted to a building that is technically accessible but certainly not equal in its treatment of those with mobility challenges.

As wheelchair user and Differently Enabled Brand Champion Fiona Jarvis says, “being wheeled away from a building around the corner and through a service entrance is NOT the same as going through the front door. Yes it’s accessible but we are often treated like second class citizens.”

I was so caught up in my own head rushing because I was late, and so used to a NYC entrance, that I had failed to realise that this was deliberate. I am so grateful I eventually got the point, and so inspired by Victoria’s cunning diversion. I only hope that others were more aware than me.

In a recent conversation with Disability Advocate Issac Harvey MBE he told me, “The only way to advance Humanity is to learn from each other.”

We at DE are still learning. And we are delighted to keep doing so, and sharing what we learn.

Our Can You See collection is our political fashion statement, by our Brand Champion Adam Morse, with a percentage of proceeds benefiting his Crystal Vision Foundation. We ask ourselves and you, “Can You See?”

What do you see when you see someone who lives with a disability? What do you expect someone with a disability to look like? Can you see how blind you are? Can you see the person or can you only see the disability?

Inclusivity is not a trend. It is a movement. It is the way forward.

Let’s all try to be aware.

Highlights from The Unhidden London Fashion Show

Join Our Journey:

Imagine beyond the status quo; be with us on our journey of compassion & collaboration by providing us with your details. To start click on the green Join Our Journey button below! Or become a Brand Champion to amplify our message and mission. To apply to become a Brand Champion click on the orange Brand Champion button below!