At only 21 years old, Emily Davison runs a YouTube blog, holds a Masters Degree, has written for the Huffington Post and The Guardian, is nominated for the National Diversity Awards, and runs her own blog, Fashioneyesta. This United Kingdom native is an inspiration to twenty somethings (like myself), as well as people with disabilities as she pushes for inclusivity in fashion amongst those who are visually impaired and/or with other disabilities. Here she talks to REglam about her own experience with being Severely Sight Impaired and how it has impacted her perception in fashion.
Meg: What was your first reaction when finding out that you were nominated for the National Diversity Awards in the category of Positive Role Model In Disability?
Emily: It was a wonderful feeling! I absolutely love my work, from making YouTube videos, writing blogs, giving interviews and working with the press and other media platforms to help give people with disabilities a voice and change perceptions that society has towards disability. I do what I do because I genuinely care about people with disabilities and their prospects. But to receive word that I have been nominated for such an award came as a real surprise. I have heard people, particularly parents of young visually impaired children say to me that I am a role model to their children. But, I never realised the extent that my followers meant these comments- I have been utterly overwhelmed by the amount of lovely, heart-warming nominations from my followers and supporters. It has filled me with such elation and motivation to continue with my work to change stereotypes towards disability.
Meg: As an advocate for more inclusivity in fashion, what are the main things that you believe fashion designers need to change to include people with disabilities?
Emily: I think the two key things to begin with are accessibility and representation. Designers need to ensure that their clothes are accessible to people with disabilities, whether that is by creating accessible online websites, detailed descriptions of garments on their online store, and social media for people with sight loss and other disabilities. Their clothing should also be made with disability in mind and things such as comfort; durability and the ability to customize or alter it for someone’s disability should be considered similarly. Shops and stores also need to be made accessible for people with disabilities. Many shops are very cramped, dark, play loud music, have hard lighting in the changing rooms, most only have one accessible changing room if one is lucky and the shop is in general not functional for a lot of disabilities whether its sensory, cognitive or mobility. Staff also need to be given further disability awareness training so that they are able to accommodate customers with disabilities when they come in to shop.
However, running parallel with accessibility, people with disabilities also need to be able to see themselves represented in the brands that they shop with too. More often than not fashion brand campaigns are full of women that don’t represent the spectrum of diversity in our society. That needs to change, disability is hugely underrepresented in the fashion industry. If a fashion brand used a model who was an amputee or a model with a visual impermanent it would hugely aid society in being able to embrace disability as well as increasing confidence of those with disabilities.
Meg: Watching your YouTube videos, I understand the misconceptions of people who are visually impaired. What are stereotypes made about people with visual impairment that can stem problems with day to day living for yourself and others?
Emily: There are plenty of stereotypes, some more harmful than others. I think one of the biggest ones for me personally is the stereotype is that the term ‘blind’ means you have no vision whatsoever. It is a common belief that sight loss means you can either see nothing or you are sighted. When I say to people I am registered ‘blind’ or ‘severely sight impaired’ as I prefer to be called they often believe I am lying. I believe this is for a number of reasons, my confidence, my ability to put outfits together, and my ability to mobilize independently in my environment. I am often told that ‘I don’t look blind’ which is of course one of the biggest stereotypes because what does someone with sight loss have to look like?
But returning to the idea of blindness, I think that people need to obliterate this idea from their head that blindness or severe sight loss means you cannot see what so ever because, that’s actually not true -only a very small percentage of people who are registered blind can’t see anything at all. Some people who are registered blind can still see things like colour, shadow, light, text, objects and so on. So don’t be surprised if you see someone who uses a DSLR camera (like myself,) likes to wear makeup, but also just happens to be registered blind. There is a difference between being blind and being registered blind. When someone says they are registered blind this may mean that they have some useful vision or at least some remaining vision like light perception. However, those who classify themselves as being blind may mean that they cannot see anything. But, again this is not always the case as disability is such a broad spectrum with lots of terms.
Meg: You talk about how people with visual impairment love fashion for reasons besides how the clothes look. Are there any fashion pieces that you know to be popular but don’t like due to their feel, smell or for other reasons?
Emily: Certain materials I try to avoid because I don’t like the texture of them. I cannot stand body-con dresses for how they feel, they don’t hang nicely and they don’t allow freedom of movement. Even when I’m having a good day without bloating, I would never wear one because I do not like the fabric used. I’m not a huge fan of Scuba material for that texture or the way it hangs on the frame. I like my clothing to have movement and some element of fluidity. Off course, I do make exceptions to this rule, but I like one aspect of my outfit to hang nicely over the frame.
I tend to avoid things like velvet skirts and trousers,because I have a very adorable little guide dog who tends to spread her fur everywhere. If I wore velvet the fur would stick to the material, which would not look at all appealing! Velvet is utterly stunning, but I tend to only wear it on the top half!
I don’t wear things like very long maxi skirts or dresses again because of my guide dog, because she walks so closely next to me when we are out she can sometimes step on the material of my skirt or dress. I either try to get the dress taken up slightly or I wear wedges to prevent this from happening.
I don’t like stiletto heels or platform heels, I try to avoid anything above 3 inch heels because of the fact that my guide dogs harness is fitted to my exact height and if I were to adorn a pair of heels that were too high my guide dogs harness handle would not be in proportion to my height which would cause problems.
Meg: How is the process when buying clothes different in comparison to those without visual impairment?
Emily: It largely depends on the individual, visual impairment is a vast spectrum and everyone perceives the external world differently. Some may buy fashion and consider it for how comfortable it feels, some may be largely attracted to colour, some to embroidery.
I think when visually impaired people buy clothes, the selection process is focused around things like how it feels to the touch, how it hangs on the frame, how comfortable and durable it is and what the style is.
From talking to my readers I know that a lot of people with visual impairments like to have a key style so that when they go out to shop they know what they are looking for. This makes the selection process that much easier, take me for instance I am very much focused on the bohemian style. I love embroidery, tassels, fringing, flowing dresses and floppy hats. So, when I go out I have a clear image in my head of my personal style, so that I know what to ask for and what to search for online to find pieces to put looks together.
Meg: What are some fashion brands that you feel are inclusive to people with disabilities?
Emily: To be honest, I feel that every UK fashion brand I have come across in some way shape or form either needs to make their brand more accessible or needs to represent disability in their brand.
But, there are elements of certain fashion brands that I have come across that are making positive steps towards including people with disabilities.
Companies like TopShop and Debenhams that offer personal shopping services for their customers is one example of how brands can make their services more accessible for everyone. Debenhams in particular worked alongside RNIB and Gok Wan to make a personal shopping service for people with visual impairments.
Fashion retailers like H&M and Sainsbury’s also featured models with disabilities during the 2012 Paralympic games.
There are also specialist brands that are making clothing for individuals with disabilities like The Runway of Dreams that make clothes specifically for individuals with disabilities and have recently worked with fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger.
Meg: You are doing your postgraduate degree right now. What is your ultimate dream job after finishing school? Has your position as a positive role model for those with disabilities influenced this decision?
Emily: For me the big dream is to be able to continue to do what I love, which is to write and produce content. I hope to some day become a children’s author; I also hope to make a career as a journalist and a blogger. I would love to continue to work as a journalist and reporter in the media. My goal is to use my writing to spread positivity into the world and if I can make a career out of that I will feel incredibly honoured.
I would also love to continue with my academic studies and interests, in the future I would love to do a PHD in the representation of invisible disabilities in Young Adult literature. But, equally I would love to continue to research and explore developments in disability representation in literature. I love academics and learning and children’s literature has become a huge part of my life.
I also want to continue to be a campaigner; I want to work with charities like Inclusive Minds, Scope and Guide Dogs on campaigns to help those with disabilities achieve their full potential and to feel included in society.
Someone wrote a nomination on the National Diversity Awards saying that I lived, ate and breathed inclusion for people of diversity and that is the truth. This person could not have summarized me bette. In life I want my work to benefit others and if my blogs and writing can reach a wider community and spread the message that disability doesn’t define a person and to love the skin they are in then I will be content.
Meg: You inspire not only people with disabilities but so many others who embrace their differences in their style. Who are some public (or non public) figures that have positively influenced you?
Emily: I have plenty! Of course my main one is my mother Emma Davison, she taught me everything I know about fashion and beauty. She worked as a makeup consultant for 8 years and she is a very creative minded individual. She is the one behind a lot of the photography on my blog and without her, I wouldn’t have been able to be a blogger.
Of course there are lots of other people who inspire me, particularly YouTubers and bloggers. Jordan Bone is one of my main sources of inspiration, she’s a YouTuber who became paralyzed after a car accident and now she makes makeup tutorials and lifestyle videos on YouTube. Kelly Knox is another inspiration of mine – she’s a model and a Huffington Post columnist, she’s an amazing advocate for the disability and fashion scene.
My friend Bianca Von Stempel who is a fashion designer with a visual impairment who produced an amazing collection of clothes, which artfully represents what its like to see the world with Nystagmus.
But, there are so many people who inspire me, authors I read, campaigners I meet, my readers who tell me their amazing stories, individuals I work with, there are far to many people to list.
Every person I surround myself with in my life, be it online, in my personal life or my professional life are people I think are inspirational because they are out there being who they are and trying to make a positive impact on the world.
Photos By: Emma Davison Instagram: @emilyemk
Interviewed By Meg Leila Summers – REglam Editor Instagram: Average Joes Average Clothes
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