Made-in-Edmonton accessible clothing keeps winter adventurers warm
Specialized garment developed by the University of Alberta allows people with disabilities to venture into the outdoors in extreme winter weather.
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Ability, not disability, was the inspiration behind a new line of accessible clothing that lets people with mobility issues venture into Edmonton’s great outdoors, no matter how cold.
Megan Strickfaden, an associate professor at the University of Alberta in material culture and design studies, has co-invented a set of garments that can be used by people in wheelchairs, trail riders and sit skis even when temperatures dip below -20.
“There are lots of people who have undergone injuries because of sporting activities, they are outdoorsy people, and they want to continue doing outdoor activities," she said.
“Because winter is such a huge part of our outdoor activity experience, one of the problems is that although we have equipment like sit skis, skates and trail riders, there is absolutely nothing on the market that would go down to -10, -20, for people who have mobility challenges.”
Right now, she said many people resort to using sleeping bags.
"[They're] actually one of the better solutions, but they are meant to be stayed in overnight, not to open up and change over time. There simply wasn’t anything that was suitable.”
So Strickfaden partnered with visiting scholar Xioakun Yu, from China’s Donghua University, to develop a three-piece garment (consisting of two types of leg covers and a cape) that protects people from harsh winter elements while still allowing them to easily get in and out of it and access everything they may need.
A series of three-way zippers can be adjusted anywhere along the body, allowing the garment to be used by people with a wide range of mobility.
Others are able to access the zippers with just their teeth, Stickfaden said.
“The thinking is how you can maximize the ability of the person,” she said.
Those people include Danny Wein, who helped field test a prototype of the product.
“Compared to many urbanites in wheelchairs, I have much outdoor clothing now,” he told Metro, via his father Ross Wein. “This new outerwear will allow me and others to get closer to nature in colder, windier and wetter weather.”
Danny, 39, was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident 18 years ago and is unable to walk.
His father founded the Alberta Abilities Lodge Society to make sure his son, an avid outdoorsman, and others like him could still access nature.
For Danny, that means strapping into a cross-country trail rider, basically a rugged wheelchair used for outdoor pursuits, during the winter.
“For Danny, it’s huge to get outdoors,” Ross told Metro. “He was a black diamond skier, a scuba driver, a soccer player, so anytime we go out, it’s a big day for him. Without these types of outerwear it means we couldn’t go when it was really windy or snowy but now we have this extra possibility on inclement days.”
Stickfaden hopes to have the final product ready for Alberta Abilities Lodge clients this winter and ultimately wants to widely distribute the clothing line.
“The initial reaction has been really fantastic because it far exceeds anything on the market. I could see this product really being usable by a lot of individuals who are sports people,” she said.