MIT lab creates accessible fashion every summer

Almost everyone has experience with mainstream clothing that does not always fit the needs of each individual. For people with disabilities, this divergence between what’s needed and what’s available can be even more pronounced.

Open Style Lab works to explore solutions to this issue by developing accessible clothing for individuals with disabilities whose needs are not being met by mainstream clothing. Currently in its third year, the lab is an MIT summer program that lasts ten weeks and is aimed at students studying design, engineering, or occupational therapy. Each summer, students are paired with local clients who are looking for accessible clothing.

According to their website, Open Style Lab not only works “to create a more beautiful and inclusive world” but also explores how their products might be used by everyone. “Grace Jun, the education director for the lab, says that for every product the fellows develop, they’re encouraged to think not only about how it meets the needs of people with a certain disability, but also the potential for it to be adapted to mass market,” stated Co.Design in a recent article.

The 2016 Summer Program saw the lab working with four clients, Justin, Jim, Michael, and Eliza. Team Eliza was announced the winner for best adaptive fashion exemplifying inclusive design. The team, which consisted of students Christina Glover, Uma Desai and Elizabeth Riley, created a seamless t-shirt for their client Eliza, an autistic girl whose sensitivity for tactile input prevents her from easily wearing clothes with seams, tags, or other clothing elements that increase tactile input.

Watch Team Eliza’s YouTube video to see their design process and the prototype they developed for Eliza.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.