Selecting an outfit and getting dressed each morning is a task most people take for granted. But zippers, buttons, and snaps can make what seems to be a simple task next to impossible for the "differently-abled."
Episcopal alumna Mindy Menkowitz Scheier '89 introduced the term "differently-abled" to EA students on Friday, March 3 during an address in Chapel.
Scheier is the founder of Runway of Dreams, a non-profit that works with the fashion industry to make adaptive clothing for children with disabilities.
After graduation, Scheier pursued her dream to be a fashion designer. "At that stage of your life, you think everything is going beautifully and perfectly and suddenly a curveball is sent your way." Her middle child Oliver was born with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy.
Scheier told students, "You have choices. I could curl up in my bed everyday devastated that this happened to our family, or I could say they are the cards that we are dealt and we are going to do something about it."
She had her "ah-ha moment" when then eight-year-old Oliver told her he wanted "to wear what everyone else was wearing." Buttons and zippers were a challenge, so sweatpants were his fashion mainstay. Jeans did not fit over his leg braces.
She recalled Oliver saying to her, "Mom, my friends are going to wear jeans tomorrow. I'm going to wear jeans too, ok?" She was faced with a decision. "Do I tell my eight-year-old he couldn't wear the same things as everyone else?," she recounted. "Clearly, as a fashion designer there was no way my kid wasn't going to wear what he wanted to wear." That night she got to work adapting a pair of jeans that would fit over his leg braces. "He went to school with his head held high because he was wearing the same jeans that his friends were wearing."
After researching adaptive clothing options, Scheier says she was horrified. "There was no way I was dressing my kid in anything I saw," she explained. After a year of exhaustive research, she launched Runway of Dreams.
"This population doesn't want to be treated or viewed any different than anybody sitting here," said Scheier. Her goal: to make a change in the fashion industry and in the world.
One in five people in the United States have a disability. Scheier used that statistic to appeal to the fashion industry. After connecting with the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger, the fashion house agreed to begin design and production of a new collection of adaptive clothing. It was a first by a mainstream brand.
"No matter what happens in your life, no matter what detours that you take, you can make a difference, and you can make a change. It's up to you. Hopefully, I am living proof that it can absolutely happen," shared Scheier. "I am honored to say my roots started right here at Episcopal."
Scheier was introduced by her classmate and current EA parent Carolyn Shaud '89, P '22, '23, '28.
Click here to view Scheier's Chapel Talk.