This Woman Is Taking On Disability Stigma With A Purple Cane And A Petition

Liz Jackson started the #YesJCrewCane campaign to get J. Crew to sell stylish canes. And she’s not taking no for an answer.

1. Meet Liz Jackson, the Girl With the Purple Cane who wants to show the world that disability can be beautiful.

Her goal is for J. Crew to sell stylish canes in their curated partnership line In Good Company. She started a petition to get 10,000 signatures in support of inclusive fashion. And she’s not stopping there.

2. Canes were once as integral to fashionable outfits as a bowler hat and a pair of spats.

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But now, most canes are clinical, impersonal and drab. But there’s a untapped market for stylish canes, and it’s not who you think. “It’s not just your grandma or grandpa who carries a cane,” say the manufacturers of Top & Derby. “Think about it; injured athletes, post-operative patients, and yes, even celebrities like Brad Pitt, use walking canes when required.”

3. If you’re wearing glasses right now, you probably don’t consider yourself disabled. You might not think of them as assistive technology, like canes and hearing aids. But that’s because glasses are cool again.

“The more comfortable people feel with their assistive devices,” says Jackson, “the less likely they are to consider themselves disabled.” If J.Crew can sell glasses, Jackson thought, why can’t they sell canes?

4. Jackson has a lot of great reasons why J. Crew is the perfect store to sell canes.

The brand’s target demographic, those under retirement age, are now the biggest group of adults with disabilities. And it’s not just any cane. Jackson found the perfect model that fits with the J. Crew aesthetic.

5. Jenna Lyons herself, President and Creative Director of J. Crew, uses a prosthetic: she has worn dentures since she was a kid, due to a condition called incontinentia pigmenti which affects skin and teeth.

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But #YesJCrewCane is not only about erasing the stigma around disability, it’s also about how the research and developments in assistive technology goes on to benefit much larger audiences.

“One of the best examples,” Jackson said, “ is that at the end of WWII some librarians decided that they wanted to put books on tape for people who lost their vision. Those were the first audiobooks. And today, there’s Audible.com, there’s Amazon, there are so many uses for audiobooks outside of those who are visually impaired.”

6. There are dozens more examples. Under Armor recently acquired the patent for a one-handed zipper. NPR added transcripts to their site for the hearing-impaired, and their traffic increased 7%. Inclusivity is a good business move.

“Design with ability and atypicality in mind may be about independence or interdependence,” wrote Sarah Hendren, a leading writer on adaptive technologies and prosthetics. “it may begin with a single user and go on to become a site of unexpected mainstream innovation.”

7. Jackson hopes that her petition creates an open dialogue and shows J. Crew and other retailers that a market exists.

Photo Courtesy of Liz Jackson

Since she began sending them letters, Jackson received one response from a customer service rep that they were “not in a position to pursue [the idea]” and had “passed her emails along to the team,” but since then she hasn’t heard anything.

8. “All of us use assistive technology,” Jackson told BuzzFeed.

“[J. Crew] sells iPhone cases. Those are for people who get the dropsies. But the stigma is with those of us who associate our assistive device with a diagnosed problem or something that we consider less-than.“

9. As Jackson pointed out, there’s a precedent for Lyons responding to specific and well-founded requests: they put an old bathing suit style back into production because a New York Magazine reporter asked for it.

Why stop there?

10. Learn more about the campaign at Liz’s website and see the #YesJCrewCane petition here.

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