Story by Georgina Fiorentino, Community Engagement and Network Coordinator at AQA.

Last month I had the pleasure of driving to Geelong to visit a lady who has a spinal cord injury. Her name is Sorayya Shemirani. We learnt about Sorayya’s artistic flair in the April 2021 issue of NewsLink, and her love of abstract acrylic painting. During Covid, Sorayya completed numerous amazing art pieces that are proudly displayed around her home.  

Sorayya’s creative talent has since shifted to another craft. Her dedicated painting room has been converted to a sewing room, giving her the space to embark on her new project and passion: fashion. Sorayya learnt how to sew many years ago from her mother, who was a professional machinist, and Sorayya has been sewing most of her own clothes for more than 30 years. 

A long-term wheelchair user, Sorayya expressed her disappointment over clothing stores not adequately catering for people with disabilities, particularly wheelchair users. For example, she would often try on clothes that were unflattering: either too long on the arm, or too bulky at the waist, such that it would cause interference at the wheels of her wheelchair, dirtying and ruining the clothes.  

Frustrated, and not willing to settle for gym wear, uncomfortable ill-fitting outfits, having to pay for alterations, or alter clothes herself, Sorayya embarked on sewing her own stylish wheelchair adaptive clothing. She has sewn dresses, skirts, blouses, pants and jackets for herself which are appropriate, well fitting to her own shape, and fashionable.

Sorayya has thought of adaptive alternatives, such as: using different material on the back of leather or silky skirts to avoid slipping around on the wheelchair cushion; adding magnetic buttons on jackets; avoiding heavy materials; and being mindful of where to place zips, pockets and buttons. Sorayya believes clothes should not only feel comfortable, they should also make people feel good about themselves. To add to her creative ambition, she recently enrolled in an online course to learn how to make her own shoes, to match some of her dressier outfits. 

Sorayya’s dream is to one day showcase her more formal adaptive designs in a fashion parade.  We discussed ways that she could pursue this dream in an environment that would enable her to learn the ins and outs of holding such an event, having no prior experience. 

Sorayya is a member of the Dance & Roll dance group. She approached its founder, Rocca Salcedo, with the idea of asking other Dance & Roll members to be her fashion models, and holding the fashion parade alongside one of the group’s events. Rocca is supportive of this idea, and is willing to offer the venue that Dance &Roll uses, seeing the cause of highlighting the importance of self-expression and creativity in people with a disability as a valuable one.  

Ultimately, Sorayya would like to hold a fashion parade event in Melbourne on the International Day of People with Disability, with the aim of increasing public awareness that fashion and self-image is important for everyone. 

You can check out some more of Sorayya’s designs at her Instagram page. If you would like to find out more about her project, or would like to participate, please contact Georgina Fiorentino at AQA:

  • April 21, 2021

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