Disability Clothing: A Guide to Adaptive Apparel

Adaptive Clothing For Individuals With Disabilities: A Guide 

When it comes to living with a disability, there are many resources out there that can improve and ease daily tasks. At Joe & Bella, we’re focused on one specific aspect - clothing - and want to share what we’ve learned to help you find the right clothes that can make dressing and wearing clothes easier. If you are living with disability or caring for someone with a disability, and are looking to better understand how adaptive clothing helps, you’ve come to the right place.  

adaptive clothing for wheelchair user | carezips by joe & bella

For some individuals with disabilities, the right clothing can make all the difference in ensuring not only independence when dressing and toileting, but can help reduce pain strain and stress when changing. And equally important, disability clothing is often designed to improve the fit and aesthetics, so clothes look and feel right for those who are seated for long periods of time. Adaptive clothing, specifically designed to address the unique needs and challenges faced by people with disabilities, offers practical and stylish solutions. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world of adaptive clothing, understand its benefits, and discover how it can positively impact the lives of older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers. And at the end of the article, we'll provide some recommendations for our favorite brands.

What Is Adaptive Clothing? 

 Adaptive shirt for women | Joe & Bella

Adaptive clothing is a specialized type of apparel that caters to the specific needs of individuals with disabilities. It goes beyond regular clothing by incorporating thoughtful design elements and adaptive features that prioritize comfort, ease of dressing, and accessibility. From modified closures to flexible fabrics, adaptive clothing ensures a comfortable and inclusive dressing experience.

From maternity clothing to infant clothing, adaptive apparel has been around for a long time. And what’s particularly exciting about right now is that there’s a new focus to help groups of people that often are ignored by the fashion industry. So if you or someone you know lives with a disability, there are probably new clothing options out there. 

How Does Adaptive Clothing Help? 

man in a wheelchair disability | joe & bella


The benefits of adaptive clothing extend far beyond basic comfort (though let’s also not ignore the importance of comfort! Let's delve into the various ways adaptive clothing can make a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities:

Easier Dressing

Adaptive garments feature design elements that make putting on and off clothes much easier for people with disabilities. 

Example: Adjustable closures, elastic waistbands, and strategically placed zippers. The extra stretch from elastic, and extra openings from zippers provide a larger area within the clothes to dress, making pants, shirts and footwear easier to pull on. These features allow individuals to dress and undress with ease, reducing discomfort and enhancing overall well-being.

Prioritize Comfort 

Adaptive clothing is often crafted with soft and breathable fabrics that prioritize comfort. Seams and labels are carefully placed (or completely removed) to minimize irritation. This is particularly important to people with skin sensitivities. 

Example: Adaptive pants made from stretchable, moisture-wicking fabric with adjustable waistbands and minimal seam construction provide optimal comfort and flexibility for individuals with mobility limitations.

Independence and Self-Expression

joe & bella adaptive clothing for seniors

One of the most empowering aspects of adaptive clothing is its ability to promote independence and self-expression. By incorporating adaptive features such as Velcro fasteners, magnetic closures, and easy-access openings, grippers in socks, adaptive clothing allows some individuals to dress and undress themselves without assistance, fostering a sense of self-reliance. For some individuals, adaptive clothing might be the one key resource that allows them to live independently without caregiver assistance. 

Moreover, adaptive clothing comes in a wide variety of styles, colors, and patterns, enabling individuals to express their unique personality and style preferences. With so many wonderful new adaptive clothing brands, there are plenty of options to find your fashion without sacrificing on functionality. 

Example: Adaptive tops with magnets instead of buttons can allow some adults to dress independently.

Easier Assisted Dressing

adaptive clothing for women | joe & bella

Additionally, adaptive clothing facilitates the dressing process for caregivers, reducing the risk of strain or injury during dressing routines. For those who will always need some form of dressing help from someone else, adaptive clothing can make the entire process quicker, simpler and safer, for both the individual wearing the clothes and their dressing helper.

Example: Shirts that open in the back like hospital gowns allow the wearer to dress without having to put their arms over their head or reach back for the second sleeve.

Addressing Specific Needs

adaptive clothing for women | joe & bella

Adaptive clothing takes into account the unique needs presented by different disabilities. It offers innovative solutions that cater to specific needs, ensuring individuals can comfortably dress while managing their particular circumstances. Whether it's creating openings for medical tubes or catheters for post surgery clothing, incorporating wider leg openings for leg braces or prosthetics, or accounting for sensory sensitivities, adaptive clothing provides practical adaptations for diverse challenges.

Example: Adaptive clothing brands offer tops designed with hidden openings to accommodate feeding tubes, allowing individuals with medical needs to maintain their dignity and style.

Improved Safety and Accessibility

adaptive footwear | joe & bella

Adaptive clothing prioritizes safety and accessibility in its design. Features such as anti-slip soles on footwear and socks reduce the risk of falls, while wheelchair-friendly designs ensure comfort and ease of movement. Flame-resistant fabrics provide an extra layer of protection, while some clothing can be water resistant and anti-bacterials. 

Example: Adaptive shoes with sturdy, non-slip soles and adjustable closures provide individuals with disabilities increased stability and minimize the risk of slipping or tripping.

Improved Aesthetics

Adaptive clothing can be designed for those who sit and use wheelchairs for most of the day. When sitting, clothes look different than when you’re standing. So some adaptive clothing brands adjust the fit. 

Example: Shirts might be shorter so they don’t bunch up in your lap. Pants might include a raised seat which is not only more comfortable, but will keep you wedgie-free. Some pants will even reposition the pockets placing them on top of the thigh.

Disability Clothing For Specific Needs

There are many brands that create wonderful adaptive clothing that either helps with specific needs or are designed for a specific group of people.

Adaptive Clothing For Seniors

adaptive clothing for seniors | joe & bella

Joe & Bella is one of the leading brands that designs clothing for older adults. While Joe & Bella clothes are styled with timeless and classic fashion that people of all ages appreciate, some of the modifications will specifically help those who are older. Their open-back tops, for examples, are a great option for adults living with cognitive decline due to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Most of the fabrics, colors and fits have all been reviewed by different groups of older people who live in senior care communities. Family caregivers of older adults, along with professional caregivers, have provided significant direction and feedback in order for Joe & Bella to create clothes that meet their needs. 

Adaptive Clothing For Kids

There are many brands that are creating adaptive clothes for kids, including many well-known companies such as Target and Kohl’s. French Toast is a brand that creates adaptive clothing perfect for the students who need to wear uniforms to school. JC Penney’s Thereabouts is an adaptive clothing brand for kids that even includes gender neutral options. 

Clothing For Amputees

No Limbits provides innovative adaptive clothing options for those with disabilities, including people who are amputees or live with a lower limb difference that makes traditional pants hard to wear. 

Clothing For Wheelchair Users

IZ Adaptive is a brand that makes adaptive clothing specifically for people in wheelchairs. Their pants are seamless, don’t include back pockets, and are a favorite choice for wheelchair users.

Clothing For Surgery Recovery

Depending on the duration and type of recovery, there are many options for recovering clothing, including all the brands mentioned above. Rebound Wear specifically makes clothing to assist in recovery. These clothes include options that can accommodate medical devices like catheters, slings and casts.

Introducing Joe & Bella: A Leading Adaptive Clothing Company 

Wait, didn't you just read about Joe & Bella? Well yes, but we've got more to share! We're committed to meeting the unique needs of individuals with disabilities, especially older adults. This is reflected in our range of thoughtfully designed products. Let's take a closer look at some of ours offerings:

  1. CareZips Adaptive Pants:
    • CareZips Adaptive Pants for men and CareZips for women both feature discreet zippers along the sides for waist to knee, allowing for easy diaper changes or medical access without the need to fully undress.
    • A patented third inseam zipper provides easy access to incontinence products, catheters and other medical devices.
    • The elastic waistband and soft, stretchable fabric ensure a comfortable fit throughout the day.
  2. Everyday Side Zips:
    • Everyday Side Zips for women and Everyday Side Zips for men both are designed with side zippers that enable easy dressing and undressing without the need for bending or lifting legs.
    • Premium athleisure fabric looks just like traditional clothing.
    • Available in various styles for both men and women, they offer both functionality and style.
  3. Freedom Chinos:
    • Freedom Chinos for men and Freedom Chinos for women both have side zippers that open all the way from the waist to the ankle.
    • Zippers can open from top to bottom or bottom to top
    • Magnetic fly
    • Discreet pull-up handles provide something easy to grab when dressing
  4. Everyday Magnetic Button-Down for Men:
    • The Everyday Magnetic Button-Down for Men features magnetic closures in place of traditional buttons, making dressing effortless and hassle-free.
    • Stretch fabric around the cuffs and between the shoulders
  5. Everyday Long Sleeve Top for Women and Everyday Polo for Men:
    • Designed to make assisted dressing easier with unique side-seam openings.
    • With easy-to-use snaps that line one side seam, up through the shoulders, you can put this on like a hospital downs
  6. Everyday Gripper Socks
    • A premium pair of socks! With grippers!
    • These socks help reduce slipping and falling on smooth surfaces

Adaptive clothing plays a vital role in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities, offering comfort, promoting independence, addressing specific challenges, and ensuring safety and accessibility. Joe & Bella, among other adaptive clothing brands, provide innovative and stylish solutions that empower individuals to look and feel their best. By understanding the different categories of adaptive clothing and considering self-dressing and assisted dressing techniques, caregivers and individuals with disabilities can navigate clothing choices with confidence, embracing a world of comfort, independence, and personal style.

Remember, the clothing you wear can be more than just fabric—it can be a source of comfort, confidence, and empowerment for individuals with disabilities. Embrace the possibilities of adaptive clothing, and unlock a world of comfort, independence, and style.

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