+Black is aiming to be an inclusive concept for a broad demographic of women but, in discussions about our demographic, the area of most debate has been around long-held perceptions regarding the word ‘disability’.
Even in the – relatively progressive – UK, so many of the non-disabled perceptions around disability are negative. Just talking through some of my ideas with a friend, I referred to ‘people like me’ and she said: “Do you think there are enough ‘women like you’ in the wheelchair market to sustain your idea?”
How do you, politely, explain that a wheelchair is not the characterising lifestyle attribute for me, or those I’d include in the +Black demographic, but rather one possible, of the many, attributes we might have. To my mind, +Black conceptually represents a commitment to an inclusive style aesthetic for women undergoing life change, irrespective of their personal attributes.
The question made me think though. The point being whether, by overtly including the disabled market as part of the +Black demographic, we immediately signal to every non-disabled person that this is not a site for them?
You’d sincerely hope not, wouldn’t you? Not only do we – the disabled – have friends and family but we are a huge population, getting larger by the year, and we might, at any moment, be including you or those close to you amongst our numbers. Would the mere mention of the word disability in the +Black concept signal a ‘not-for-me’ response in you?
Sounds crazy, I know, but I have noticed, over the years, that even disabled people are not keen to shop on sites that are perceived to be ‘for the disabled’. There will be a lot of reasons for this not least that most of the existing sites are not exactly style aware nor well presented nor do they offer great quality or design in product – notable exceptions to this include Canadian based IZ Adaptive Clothing and a new start-up in the UK, Xeni. But, more pertinently to +Black, it seems that a lot of women with disabilities and those on the ‘cusp’ of disability (with impairment not obviously affecting their daily living) do not perceive themselves as ‘different’ nor are they comfortable to be separately distinguished from from their friends and families purely on the basis of disability.
Yay, to this, I say. Don’t we all have a collective psychological panic attack at the idea of being thought ‘abnormal’ or ‘different’? The attributes that make us all alike – subject to personality likes/dislikes – are always greater than any attributes that distinguish us apart. We all just want to be perceived as human – a singularly unique individual – and if we have ‘special’ needs, can’t these just be slipped in to our product offer quietly, unobtrusively and without the flashing neon lights labelling us as ‘abnormal’? Jeez, the disabled are not the only ones with different-to-normal needs – what about plus sizes and old people? Tall people? Big busts? Big feet? There’s a lot of variance within normal.
So, from the outset, it’s a fundamental of the +Black concept to make anyone who likes our style aesthetic – over 45, excessively hairy, disabled, big feet, plus-sized, and anything else – feel better not worse about themselves. The inclusiveness of +Black is all about being ‘normal to be diverse’ not ‘abnormals over here’.
But, does this inclusiveness overcome in-built prejudices surrounding key words?
My hope is that it does. +Black will aim to be an interesting site pointing the way to great product and solutions that, subtly, solve at least some of the style questions posed by the demands of a myriad of lifestyle changes – who cares how we label the attributes of those included within this? Does anyone care? Feel free to let me know what you think.