This Paralysed Woman Designs Jeans For People In Wheelchairs

After a devastating car accident left her paralyzed from the chest down, Heidi McKenzie, 29, was dead set on adapting to her new normal. She graduated college, started volunteering and won a beauty pageant. However, the one hindrance that she faced all these years led to her current project – creating a decent pair of jeans for people who use wheelchairs! heidi While there has been a significant advantage in wheelchair technology around the globe and also a change in perspective with people becoming more sensitive to their needs, however, catering to a basic need of clothing seemed to have been left out. She was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky in 2012 and became an advocate for people who use wheelchairs by traveling around the country and sharing her story. Later that same year, McKenzie, who lives in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, went on to the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant. While there, she and more than 20 other women in wheelchairs competed together for weeks. McKenzie didn’t win, but something she noticed throughout the competition stuck with her long after the final prize was handed out. “I realized we all had a common struggle when it came to fashionable and functional clothing,” McKenzie told The Mighty. Inspired, McKenzie, who had always been interested in fashion, set out to help fill that void. She recently founded Alter UR Ego, a clothing company predicated on creating comfortable, fashionable clothing for people in wheelchairs to help them look good and, in turn, feel good, too. “I want to make it possible for those with disabilities to be able to express their ‘alter-ego’ through fashion while breaking down social barriers,” McKenzie wrote on the company’s website. When Heidi competed in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant, she realized there were many like-minded people, who could no longer follow trends because no one made clothes for them. This gave birth to the idea of Alter Ur Ego, her own fashion line. “Over the past eight years, it was difficult to find fashionable and functional clothing for people in wheelchairs. There are inconveniences, health issues and discomforts that come with sitting all day, but I wasn’t ready to buy pants for grannies! I wanted to be able to wear the type of fashion I did when I could walk. I didn’t want to give up on feeling and looking good,” says Heidi. “We want to feel confident but we still need the comfort and functionality that comes with specially designed clothing.” Alter Ur Ego, started along with American designer Kristin Alexandra Tidwell is creating a line of jeans, which focusses on trends and functionality. “We’ve thought of everything – from adding pockets in the front to a high-waisted back to a special waistband, a tummy control panel, straps for ease of dressing and an opening in the crotch for catheter use. I’ve tested the prototype with some of my “wheelie” friends, and they agree it’s exactly what we’ve been looking for.”

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