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Model brings 'disabled visibility' to Toronto Fashion Week

Former athlete says she believes she was the first person with a mobility disability to walk down the runway at Toronto Fashion Week.

Rachel Romu was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in early 2016. The connective tissue disorder affects the stability of a person’s joints.

Rachel Romu was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in early 2016. The connective tissue disorder affects the stability of a person’s joints.

When Rachel Romu walks down the runway, she turns heads.

The 24-year-old has been modelling for about a year and just worked Toronto Fashion Week, where she believes she was the first person with a mobility disability to walk down the runway.

Romu has walked with a cane since being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in early 2016, and since then she's worked to create positive images for people with disabilities.

"With modelling I wanted to create images that I wanted to see," says the former University of Toronto track and field athlete. "Disabled people deserve to feel positive too."

The connective tissue disorder began as chronic back pain, and Romu believed it was due to injuries related to high jump and long jump. A spinal tumour was then discovered, and her disorder was diagnosed a short time later. It disrupts collagen production and affects her joints, she says.

"The most challenging part was not knowing what was going on," she says.

With more certainty about her health, Romu is focused on what she wants to accomplish.

"I really want to bring disabled visibility into people's living rooms," she says.

She concedes "it's been a challenge to some extent."

One client cancelled a job after learning she uses a cane, Romu said.

Despite the obstacles, Romu remains optimistic. She'll appear at another fashion show on College Street on Sept. 21 and at another in October.

In the meantime, she's feeling good about her work at Toronto's main fashion showcase.

"I'm very proud."

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