Adaptive Clothing For The Disabled And People With Special Needs

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®

With adaptive clothing, people with disabilities are now capable of dressing themselves. If not, adaptive clothing makes dressing easier on the caregiver.

Adaptive Clothing For The Disabled

With adaptive clothing, people with disabilities are now capable of dressing themselves. If not, adaptive clothing makes dressing easier on the caregiver.

Income Disclosure: I recommend products based on my personal experience working with seniors.
I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. Learn More.

Ever tried wearing a dress or shirt with just one hand? Perhaps tried wearing your favorite pants while seated? It’s certainly challenging, and this is just a glimpse of what the disabled and elderly encounter in their daily lives.

It, therefore, warrants the discussion around adaptive clothing. According to the CDC, 1 in every 4 Americans has a disability. Moreover, the rate of people with special needs increases past 65 years of age to 2 in every 4 Americans.

That said, it’s time that clothing designers and the entire fashion industry made adaptive clothing as mainstream as traditional options. Seniors and people with disabilities have long struggled to zip, button, tie, and snap garments just to get dressed in the morning.

Luckily, today we’re telling a different story.

Here is all you need to know about adaptive clothing for seniors and disabled adults, as well as where you can purchase adaptive clothing.

What Is Adaptive Clothing? 

Adaptive clothing refers to garments that are specifically made to suit people with difficulties dressing independently. That could be because of disability, injuries, illnesses, age, mental disorders, poor motor skills, and many other reasons.

Adaptive clothing is made for seniors, men, women, and kids, name it!

Adaptive clothing makes it easier to get dressed, helping people with impairments gain a sense of independence. Not just these but their caregivers too. It takes away the agony that comes with putting on traditional clothing. 

And no, adaptive clothing is not just practical – it’s stylish too. It is made with the user in mind. As such, it not only makes the lives of people with disabilities easier but also it’s made trendy to bring out their best.

This gives seniors and people with special needs a greater sense of confidence, especially as more designers join the adaptive clothing bandwagon.

adaptive clothing for the disabled types
Adaptive clothing, such as seated jeans, is ideal for wheelchair users

What Types of Adaptive Clothing Are Available for Disabled Adults?

There are many different types of adaptive clothing that are helpful for people with disabilities or dressing and undressing in general. Here are some of the most common ones:

Velcro Clothing

Velcro is a trademark for a hook and loop closing that pieces together when the 2 sides are pressed together. Adaptive clothing with velcro comes in all types and sizes, from shirts to dresses to pants and shoes.

When shirts attach on the sides using velcro, it makes it easier to dress than traditional zippers and buttons that require fastening. 

Slip-proof velcro shoes, on the other hand, come in handy for people with mobility issues since they are easy to wear and don’t have to be tied. They are also easily adjustable so that they’re not tight. Shoes such as these are also made with non-skid soles for enhanced stability. 

Side or Back-Flap Pants

Different types of pants will have a zipper or velcro on the side to eliminate the need to pull them up. Additionally, some pants have a back opening to make changing someone with incontinence easier.

Seated Jeans

These make people with incontinence have a much easier time. They have a cut that is specifically designed for sitting and is taller in the back and shorter in the front. 

The extra fabric helps conceal pull-ups, and some require pulling tabs to make them easier to put on and take off. This also comes in handy for wheelchair users.

Sensory Clothing

Disability is not only physical but can be developmental/psychological too. Some people, like autistic persons, are allergic to particular textiles, as well as tags and clothing labels. 

As such, adaptive clothing manufacturers use linen fabric or hypoallergenic bamboo as well as screen-print labels instead of physical tags for their comfort. 

Magnetic Closures

As mentioned previously, zippers and buttons can make dressing a hustle. Clothing with magnetic closures can be used instead to make fastening a walk in the park. 

Easy On/Off Clothing

These are dresses, shirts, pants, shoes, and other types of clothes that are extremely easy to wear and remove. Adaptive clothing that is easy to put on and take off usually have magnetic or velcro closures at the side or back. 

Shoes are typically made wide enough to allow the user to step into them easily. Others include broad leag pants, pants with elastic waistbands, dresses made of stretch fabric with front pockets, and so on. 

Open Back/Side Clothing

Special clothing items that open down the back to help persons who can’t raise their arms above their heads to put on a blouse or dress. They also help wheelchair users or those who spend most of their time in bed dress themselves.

Anti-Strip Clothing

Some clothing lines are made for people with special needs, such as those who tear their clothes away aggressively. Anti-strip clothing is also designed to discourage inappropriate undressing for those with Autism, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

Ponchos

Ponchos help stay warm and dry throughout any outdoor activity. They can be made to fit the entire front length of a wheelchair user and can even be rainproof to keep you dry throughout the year.

How Can Disabled Adults Benefit From Adaptive Clothing?

Wheelchair Users

Wheelchair-accessible apparel can be limited in ordinary retail stores. Adaptive clothing for wheelchair users, however, is available in selected stores.

These clothes are created specifically to help them dress from a seated position as well as overcome other obstacles they encounter in their daily lives. 

Alzheimer’s

People with Alzheimer’s tend to disrobe at inappropriate times. For this, clothing that locks is ideal for keeping them from undressing inappropriately.

They also need simple clothes that are comfortable, easy to wear, and adaptable. This allows patients to dress easily and remain comfortable throughout the day. 

Learn more about adaptive clothing for dementia and Alzheimer’s here.

The Blind

The blind can benefit from adaptive clothes by using a track, bead, and pallette embroidery to spell out information on the clothes they are wearing. Braille tags are also common in providing crucial information to the wearer. 

Their clothes also come with fasteners like magnetic buttons and Velcro tabs. This maintains their overall sense of independence. Lastly, their clothes may have a 23-cm pocket that is specially designed to hold their walking stick.

This helps them have their stick with them always, especially in unfamiliar locations where they may not know of a safe location to keep their walking stick. 

Strokes and Hemiplegia

People who have had strokes feel more comfortable in loose-fit clothes and smooth fabrics. These tend to be more comfortable to wear than polyester or flannel. They also need easy-to-fit clothes that they can easily wear when one arm is affected. 

Read about adaptive clothing for stroke victims and hemiplegia in this guide.

Cerebral Palsy

People with cerebral palsy can maintain a sense of independence when they’re able to dress more readily. This is only possible when clothing is made with easy-to-hold fabric. Adaptive clothes for cerebral palsy should also be easy to wear and fasten.

Shirts with magnets and buttons are excellent garment adaptations. Tops with rear buttons also make it easier for people who have difficulty reaching their arms above their heads to remove their garments. 

Bedridden

People who spend their lifetime in bed need breathable, comfortable, and loose clothes. They need pajamas that are made of soft 100 percent cotton for premium comfort when bedridden or in hospice care. Clothing that is easy to put on and provides easy access for care are important when considering adaptive clothing for bedridden adults.

Amputees

Amputees require easier access to their prosthetics. This way, they can rectify a problem if the prosthetic becomes loose or shifts. Clothing items, in this case, should be tailored to the demands of the person who has had a limb amputated. 

If the person has had an arm or leg amputated, the garment should feature an opening along the seams with velcro, zippers, or snaps to allow easier access.

Adaptive clothing for amputees makes their daily life manageable. 

ALS and Parkinson’s

Many people don’t realize the benefit of adaptive clothing for Parkinson’s patients or ALS patients.

Because of the loss of fine motor skills, magnetic and velcro closures should be used in place of buttons and zippers. This helps minimize the effort used to put on or remove their clothes, giving them a sense of autonomy. 

Similarly, adaptive clothing benefits people with Multiple Sclerosis too as well as with other neurological disorders.

Edema

Foot and leg swelling makes it difficult to wear traditional shoes or jeans. As such, shoes and pants that stretch and have non-restrictive fasteners make it bearable for people with edema. Compression socks and garments can also help to enhance blood flow and decrease swelling.

adaptive clothing for the disabled temporary uses
Adaptive clothing is also helpful to those with temporarily restricted movement.

Temporary Uses for Adaptive Clothing

Adaptive clothing is not limited to those with permanent disabilities. It is also available for those with temporary issues like:

Broken Arms

It’s normal for someone who has fractured an arm to have difficulty with everyday tasks like getting dressed. Wearing standard clothes can certainly be difficult if you can’t lift one of your arms. 

In this situation, adaptive clothing for broken arms, such as snap-back clothing, is extremely helpful. These clothes have the appearance of ordinary clothing, but the snap-back construction makes it easier for the caregiver to dress the injured person to avoid conflict. 

Shoulder Surgery

Post-surgery clothing should be loose-fitting and easy to put on, such as button-down shirts and giant t-shirts. Online stores also provide post-surgical clothing designed exclusively for people who have undergone shoulder surgery.

These clothes focus on placing the surgery arm in first when getting dressed to avoid shifting the muscles too much. 

You can read more about adaptive clothing for shoulder surgery in this guide.

How Does Adaptive Clothing Help Caregivers of Disabled Adults? – 9 Benefits to Caregivers

  1. People with disabilities may be able to dress, which gives them dignity and control. This can be gratifying to a caregiver.
  2. It reduces the burden on caregivers and adults with disabilities.
  3. It reduces the patient’s pressure and agony, allowing you to have a more pleasant experience.
  4. Allows patients to remain independent for a longer period, giving you a breather while giving them space. 
  5. Allows for effortless dressing; it’s less difficult and time-consuming.
  6. It gives caretakers peace of mind, knowing that there will be minimal disagreement.
  7. It protects your patient from injury and discomfort. 
  8. Well-designed clothes restore people’s sense of normalcy. It gives them confidence which can make caregiving a walk in the park!
  9. It can assist in relieving stress if you can get your loved one into their clothes without a struggle or extra maneuvering.

Where Can I Buy Adaptive Clothing for the Disabled? 

More fashion lines and clothing brands are seeing the need to be more inclusive, which explains why adaptive clothing is now readily available. Here are some brands with apparel for the special needs community:

Ovidis

Use code GWG10 to save 10% off regular prices.

They have everything from easy-on footwear to full-back opening gowns with strategically positioned shoulder snap buttons to strap-on dashing pajamas and attractive button-free blouses for the elderly.

Their clothing is ideal for senior people who have mobility challenges, arthritis, or dementia.

JCPenney

They offer a wide range of bright adaptive apparel and accessories for adults and children with mobility, dexterity, and/or sensory issues.

Amazon Adaptive Clothing

They have over 3000 different adaptive clothing alternatives to pick from. Open back adapted active crew neck tops for women, dresses/skirts with magnetic closures instead of buttons, shoes that one can step into without having to force them on, and so on. 

Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive

They have a Tommy Adaptive line of clothing for children, men, and women. Their line is advertised by able figures in the disability community, including Paralympic gold medalist Jeremy Campbell, an autistic chef, and Jeremiah Josey. 

Zappos

They sell clothes that are utilitarian and fashionable. These are sourced from different brands and include innerwear, sensory-friendly, shoes, seated wear, and more. They have a council specially dedicated to their adaptive clothing selections.

Etsy

It is an online marketplace for one-of-a-kind, handcrafted items, and some vendors provide hard-to-find and custom adaptive clothes for people with special needs. 

Dignity Pajamas

They specialize in women’s and men’s pajamas that are easy to put on and take off.

These pajamas have soft materials, beautiful designs, and open backs with Velcro closure and were designed by clothes designer-founder France, who was looking for a comfortable, dignified choice for her parents when they needed hospice care.

RELATED: Ultimate List of Top Adaptive Clothing Brands and Retailers

Adaptive Clothing FAQs

1. Can You Make Adaptive Clothing for the Disabled?

DIY projects can be used to make adaptive clothing for the disabled. You could either modify their clothes or buy new fabric and design them from scratch. 

All you have to do is figure out what they require, such as adding zippers to create new access points or removing the rear pockets. From here, proceed with tailoring as long as you’re familiar with it.

2. How Can You Modify Existing Clothing for the Disabled?

Change shoe closures to one-handed zippers, replace buttons with magnetic closures, size up their clothes, trim away pieces of garments that they do not need, and any other modification that makes them comfortable. 

3. Does Medicare or Medicaid Cover Adaptive Clothing for Disabled Adults?

Adaptive clothing is typically not considered medically required; thus, insurance does not cover it. To be covered by Medicare, such clothing must be prescribed by a doctor and deemed medically essential, which is uncommon.

Wrapping Up

While adaptive clothing isn’t necessary for everyone, it is critical for the disabled who have difficulty dressing. If your loved one falls in this category, try them and watch their lives improve a great deal!

Photo of author

Scott Grant, CSA®, ATP, CRTS®

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Certified Rehab Technology Supplier (CRTS®)

I have been serving seniors and the elderly for over 20 years as a medical equipment and custom wheelchair specialist for a regional medical equipment company. I am also a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not helping older adult improve the quality of their lives, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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