In 2016, Ashgan El-Abhar established a company with a mission to raise awareness about accessibility for the differently-abled in Egypt in all walks of life. When her friend who uses a wheel-chair expressed a simple but unattainable wish to wear a comfortable dress, she launched her fashion for the differently-abled brand “Adaptive”, with the slogan “Metfasal Leek–Tailored for You”. We talked to her to know all about it.
What inspired you to start the brand and what’s the significance of your slogan “Metfasal Leek”?
The inspiration came from witnessing the experiences of differently-abled people. As friends, we struggle to find a place to go out together because for example, there are stairs and no accessible alternative for the differently-abled. This applies to many other areas of their lives from a training they wish to take or a place they’d like to shop in but can’t because the changing rooms aren’t spacious enough for a wheel chair.
But, the turning point that gave birth to the project would have to be when a friend of mine who uses a wheel chair said “I wish I could wear a dress.”
That’s where the “Metfasal Leek” slogan came from. It means that the clothes are made especially for the differently abled, adapted for their needs rather than the other way around.
What services do you provide? Who are the groups you wish to benefit the most with your brand?
The Services my company provides in general are trainings for service providers on how to assist differently-abled people as consumers. For now though, we’re focusing on the fashion brand.
The beneficiaries of our services include people with motor disabilities, cerebral palsy, prosthetic limbs and people of short stature.
Who contributes in working on the brand?
Our team includes professional fashion designers. Also, differently-abled volunteers contribute as models, in fact, many of them are now the first differently-abled models in Egypt. They also attend fittings and workshops to give their advice.
What are the biggest challenges you faced when starting the brand?
The financial resources of course were a problem. My partner Mohamed Wagdy and I handle the funding.
Also, the statistics regarding differently-abled people are general and uncategorized. For example, they don’t tell us the number of wheel-chair users or those with cerebral palsy.
Furthermore, we struggle to find places with accessibility measures to hold our fittings and workshops.
From your Perspective, what ideas need to change regarding differently-abled people?
The first thing that must change is society’s perception of differently–abled people only in terms of needing charity or the assistance of civil society organizations.
They don’t need to be talented artists or athletes to be recognized. They are a segment of consumers that need to be considered when designing a product or service.
Also, society needs to realize that the term ‘differently-abled’ is a loose and flexible term. In our minds we always link it to disability. But in reality, when a person breaks a leg and they use crutches, they are differently-abled. When someone’s eyesight worsens and they need a bigger font size to read, this makes them differently-abled. Society needs to acknowledge that and make changes to accommodate and include everyone.
What Do You Hope To Achieve With Your Brand? What Message Would You Send To Society About The Experiences of Differently-Abled People in Egypt?
I wish that the idea behind the brand would reach more people. There is still many people who don’t understand what it’s like for differently-abled people not to have access to suitable clothes. They do not understand how a simple task like putting pants on or tying a shoe lace is a daily challenge for them.
Also, I wish that the brand can expand and start exporting abroad of course.
The message I would like to send to society is that
the differently-abled deserve that people understand the hardships they face in an inaccessible world. They are all around us and any day, we could be in their shoes.
Whether this will be because we’ll age and could need a wheel chair or because our parents will. An accessible world for the differently-abled is inclusive of everyone.