Monday, April 25, 2011

Clothing Line for the Blind & Visually Impaired

The following is e-mail correspondence between Cathy Jackson, President NFB of Kentucky & a Clothing Design Student. I just wanted to share the ignorance & prove how much work the NFB still has to do on educating the sighted community.

Hi Cathy,
My name is Edana and I am a senior design student at the University of Cincinnati. For my senior design project, I am developing a line of clothing for the blind and visually impaired. I recently visited the American Printing House for the Blind and was given your contact information from Katie Carpenter. I am trying to continue my research to be able to better design for my target market. I was wondering if I would be able to send along some specific questions to you to gain further insights in order to better design more efficient products. If you are visually impaired or blind, your insights would be very much appreciated. If not, if there is someone that you could put me in contact with I would appreciate that as well.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

I would like for you to forward me the questions you might have regarding your project to design a line of clothing for the blind and visually impaired. However, probably not for the reasons you would like. My question to you is, why do you believe blind persons need a specially designed line of clothing? We are quite capable of wearing the same clothing found on the racks in department stores. We can coordinate our clothing as well as sighted individuals. It is off-the-wall projects such as yours that lead the general public to believe blind people are less than capable. I would like to refer you to our web sites so that you can learn more about blindness and the work of the National Federation of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. We are the largest membership organization of the blind speaking for the blind.
Check out and
Cathy Jackson, President
National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky

Hi Cathy,

I sincerely apologize if my project in any way sounds as though I am in any way saying that the visually impaired are incapable for any reason. That was not my intent at all, and I sincerely apologize if it came across that way. My project is based upon aiding those with vision problems, those who may be color blind, and also those who do not have vision problems of any sort. The clothes are not going to look different from what you could buy in a department store. Instead, however, they are going to focus on a tagging system that incorporates Braille, bolder fonts and other small details that could make a person's wardrobe easier to manage and navigate. The product's focus will be to make organization of one's closet much easier for all, but I focused on those who depend upon other senses other than sight to do so because it takes the process to another dimension and gives a deeper meaning as to why a tag is in a certain place, why a pocket is a certain size or in a specific location, etc.
Again I apologize for any misunderstanding and would love to hear any feedback you may have if you are still interested in hearing insights that I have come across.

Hope you enjoy your weekend. Happy Friday.


Hi Edman,

I am truly glad that you responded to my email. I realize you are not familiar with blindness and your intentions are well-meaning. You have to realize that the blind are subject to so many projects, surveys, tests, interviews etc. that we have grown weary of it all. There was a gentleman a few months ago, just one of many I might add, that wanted us to take a survey about our sex lives. I still don't think he believes blind people even have sex much less enjoy it. I hope you can see where I am coming from. Back to your project, blind people already tag their clothing using many methods. Basically, you are re-inventing the wheel. We don't consider tagging clothes a major problem, certainly not one that would cause us to approach clothing manufacturers to have this feature.built in. We would be more likely to work with a clothing company to ask them to employing blind people. I hope you have had the time to visit the web sites I gave you so that you can learn about our philosophy and our expectations for the blind. I would consider it a pleasure to continue dialoging with you.

Cathy Jackson

Thanks so much for your reply. Here are some questions that could help me to better understand any frustrations or things that may be of help when considering design details such as pockets or the placement of tags with my collection. Again, this collection is not to distinguish those with vision problems, instead it is going to be designed to help ANYONE better organize their wardrobe. I am just focusing on those with vision problems to gain another dimension of research and to focus on organization other than just by sight. Please feel free to answer some or all of the questions.

1. What are your biggest frustrations when it comes to your vision loss? There are occasions when I wish I could drive. Actually, a blind person has driven. Check out
2. Can you read Braille? If so, how long have you been reading Braille? Yes, for fifty years
3. Explain your closet. For example, is it organized by color or style? Mostly by seasons
4. How do you know what you are choosing or wearing? Is it organized a certain way? Not organized and I do have some vision.

5. What would make choosing an outfit easier? Having enough money.
6. Would Braille and raised textures on clothing be of help to you? If so, where on the garment would it be most effective and in what ways could you utilize this? We already have tags that can be put into clothing for easy identification. We usually place them on already existing tags. As far as raised textures, clothing is already tactile. There are such distinguishing things as buttons, rhinestones, long sleeves, ruffles, and the feel of the fabric..

7. If I were to create a coding system, besides color, size, fabric and wash instructions, is there anything else that may be helpful to you? For example, a system that makes it easy to distinguish which items can be matched with other items? Again, we use tags. cut a notch in the label, or put a safety pen in the garment. Washing instructions are pretty basic and if we have any concerns we ask about them before we purchase the item.
8. Is there anything specific you must have with you at all times? For example, something that requires a specific pocket size? No
9. Is there a type of clothing you prefer and/or dislike? Why? For example, you dislike clothing with obscure pockets or too many buttons? I don't see the relevance of this question. If I don't like it I don't buy it. We don't have trouble finding pockets.
10. Is there any type of pocket, closure, or garment detail that would be helpful for such things as a dog accessory, cane, or other useful items to you? For example, a hook for a cane so that it doesn't fall over when stopped or not in use... A brief case, tote bag or purse will serves this purpose. A belt loop is a perfect place to hang a cane if one desires.

Any of your feedback would be helpful. If you have other comments or ideas I would love to hear those as well. Thanks again!
I know you are head-long into this project but I would like to encourage you to abandon it. Again I realize you aren't knowledgeable about blindness. This fact is even more obvious after reading your questions. Please believe me when I tell you we don't need special pockets or hooks, or someone to Braille clothing. These questions are not at all relevant to sighted people. If they were you wouldn't be asking about pocket sizes and hooks for such items as dog accessories and canes. You are not the first person to have the idea to design a line of clothing for the blind and you won't be the last. The reason there isn't such a thing is simply because it is not needed.


I hear you say that this line of clothing is not just for blind and visually impaired individuals, however your questions certainly point in that direction. I will try to answer them as concisely and briefly as I can. You need to understand that we already tag our clothes and look for shirts, pants etc. that have the size pockets we need whether it is for a pack of cigarettes, a cell phone, or a color identifier. I guess I should have told you early on that I do have some useable vision, so some things would not apply to me. As you have noticed I am forwarding our correspondence to our NFB of Kentucky list serve. If you would like, others might be interested in replying to your questions. You will definitely learn about blindness, but I don't think this is the crowd that will rally around your project.