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Adaptive clothing changes lives

May 21, 2017

Empowering trousers

Empowering trousers:  Paraplegia patient Nick Lee wears pants designed by the Polytechnic University’s Troels H. Povlsen Care Apparel Centre which help him get out and about.

Dressed to thrill

Dressed to thrill:  Spinal muscular atrophy patient Elaine Ma wears a dress she conceived and entered in the centre’s annual adaptive apparel design competition.

Sharp garb

Sharp garb:  The clothes designed by the apparel centre and its clients are not only functional, but also look good.

Sartorial support

Sartorial support:  Apparel centre Director Dr Frency Ng says adaptive clothing helps the disabled and the elderly live as ordinary people.

A car accident 11 years ago paralysed Nick Lee from the chest down.


Since then, getting dressed has been a challenging task for him.


However, a visit to Polytechnic University’s Troels H. Povlsen Care Apparel Centre three years ago solved this problem.


The centre tailor made a pair of trousers for him which are easy to be put on.


He said: "The pants have zippers in the side seams. My caretaker first puts the unzipped trousers on the bed. I lie down on top of them and the caregiver zips them up. With these specially-made pants, getting dressed has become a lot easier for both me and my caregiver."


Disguising disabilities

Buying seven pairs of the tailor-made trousers at the centre, Mr Lee said his new wardrobe has encouraged him to go out to meet friends, boosting his confidence.


He explained how the trousers help disguise his uncontrollable leg condition.


"I don’t have motor control in my legs, which jerk sometimes due to nerve reflexes. They have to be strapped to my wheelchair.


"As the new pants have zippers in the side seams, I can hide the straps in the trousers so people will not stare at me and make me feel uncomfortable."


Established in 2006, the centre is among the few organisations in Hong Kong that address the clothing needs of the disabled and the elderly.


The centre holds an annual design competition to encourage the disabled and the elderly to design their own clothes.


Elaine Ma was among the disabled designers who joined the competition last year. She suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects the control of muscle movement.


She designed a dress which helps disguise her disability.


"The disease makes it difficult for me to move around. My wheelchair has a chest strap which keeps me tethered to the seat. This dress can cover the strap. Also, as my neck is a bit slanted, I designed a high collar which can be detached and changed easily," she said.


The competition introduces the concept of adaptive apparel, allowing people like Elaine to know clothing can be altered to cater to the needs of disabled people to make their lives easier.


Public awareness

The centre’s Director Dr Frency Ng said she and her colleagues want to show their care for the needy through clothing.


"Many people do not understand the special clothing needs of the elderly and the disabled. I hope the public can understand care apparel helps them solve problems in their lives. The clothes can disguise their defects so they can be the same as ordinary people."


Dr Ng said adaptive garments help boost the wearer's confidence and sense of dignity. The clothes are not only functional, they also look good.


"I have handled a case in which a grandfather refused to attend the wedding banquet of his grandchild just because he didn’t like his relatives knowing that he needs to wear aprons for eating.


"The problem was solved simply by providing him with an apron which is designed as a conventional garment."


For Elaine, she said her new dress is beautiful and comfortable.


"Their service is important to us. I hope the public can show more support so more disabled people can benefit from it."