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Disability: A New Perspective For the Textile Industry


by Michaela Conrad


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Rochester Institute of Technology
College of Liberal Arts
Department of Communication
Disability: A New Perspective For the Textile Industry
by Michaela Conrad
Third year Advertising & Public Relations major Christie Ong traveled to Los Angeles to present the results of her research on disability outreach in the textiles and apparel industry.  Her presentation was entitled, “Disability:  How do textiles and apparel scholars address this issue in the classroom, in their research or creative work, and in their outreach to the community and the textiles and apparel industry?”  

On November 8th, Ong attended the International Textile and Apparel Association’s (ITAA) 63rd annual conference.  Spanning three days in length, this year’s conference, “On the Edge,” gave attendees the opportunity to explore the effects of diversity on the design, production and distribution of apparel, and related services.

ITAA was first formed in 1935 with the cooperation of the United States Office of Education and various institutions to study textiles and apparel curricula, and eventually spawned annual conferences in three locations across the U.S.  This year, for the first time in ITAA history, a critical dialogue about disability in the textile and apparel discipline engaged hundreds of visitors. 

Alongside her colleague Jaimen Brill (APR ’07) and under the direction of Professor Wilma King, Ong advanced an extraordinary idea that is still in development.  “White Cane Label” advocates producing “…ready-made Braille tags and an interactive website for any blind or visually impaired individual to use.”  Presently, White Cane Label is in the process of becoming an organization.

Ong told Liberal Smarts that there have already been articles written on the project, under the supervision of Professor King, a faculty member in the Department of Communications here at RIT.  King is also a member of Fashion for Good, an organization connected to ITAA, which provided an avenue to introduce the project at a roundtable discussion this summer in Italy.  The media promoted this idea, resulting in much anticipated excitement for the Los Angeles conference this year.

Ong’s presentation addressed the hard-of-hearing individuals’ perspective coupled with other disabilities, such as blindness, to the conference.  Ong gleaned information about how to improve White Cane Label through interviews with blind and other visually impaired persons regarding their opinions about how the fashion industry can improve in being inclusive in teaching, engaging in scholarship and creative work, and providing outreach to the disability community. 

Christie Ong

The ITAA’s mission is to advance excellence in research, theory development, education, creative work, and their applications in the global textiles and apparel field.  Ong’s presentation was a groundbreaking idea for the advancement of the field by advocating inclusion to an entire consumer base.  Indeed, Ong has made significant progress towards excellence in the global textiles and apparel field.




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