Accessible RA Clothes
Last updated: November 2022
One aspect you might not hear discussed a lot when you have RA is how inaccessible clothes can be, especially when you experience joint damage from RA. You don't realize how much you took for granted before you had RA. When I was first diagnosed, I remember how difficult it was to put on clothes. I was in so much pain that it was sometimes impossible to lift my shirt over my head or button it once it was on. Thankfully, because of my medicine, I don't have to deal with that now, but I know many people experience this every day.
What is inaccessible clothing?
The worst clothes for accessibility are shirts with buttons, shirts that require you to lift your arms in order to put on, and any tight clothing that needs extra movement or contortion of your body to get into.
There are a few approaches to help with this, like simply having more accessible clothes. There are a variety of clothes that accomplish this, for example, clothes that have clasps that require less hand movement. These clasps allow you to snap the "button" over a holder to close the fabric.
Tools that may help
However, instead of changing clothing, there are a few accessibility tools that may help. I've seen some contraptions where you hook the fabric through a buttonhole which pulls the material over the button to snap in place. Those are usually pretty cheap, and I've even seen some people make their own, but I also know that sometimes the tools don't work or aren't the best option (especially if you're like me and have trouble looking down to see where exactly the fabric is supposed to go through the hook).
RA changed my perspective on getting dressed
I bring all of this up because I had no idea that accessible clothing was even an option for when I was in pain. Before I was diagnosed and was experiencing the worst brunt of my symptoms, I thought I would have to endure not being able to wear the clothes I wanted and instead find other clothing options that didn't hurt my joints or body. I felt so discouraged in thinking that this was it--I would not be able to find clothes that could meet my unique style and allow me to feel okay. But, discovering these new tools and clothing options allowed me to express myself fully.
Wrist braces and heating pads
I also considered whether other accessibility tools were clothing, like wrist braces and heating pads. Wrist braces are fashioned onto the body, so in many ways, I would consider those clothing/part of fashion--especially when there are some wrist braces that have designs on them to express your creativity.
My whole point in writing this was that I don't think most people consider how different articles of clothing--or maybe those not even considered clothing--can affect your life when they aren't accessible. I didn't always think about how important my clothes were in my life until RA; I'm still trying to determine whether that is a good thing.
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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