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article imageParalyzed designer creates jeans for people in wheelchairs

By Caroline Leopold     Aug 21, 2015 in Lifestyle
Kentucky woman Heidi McKenzie — paralyzed from the chest down from a car accident — has designed a collection of fashionable and functional jeans for people who use wheelchairs.
Heidi McKenzie abandoned her dream of a fashion career when an accident in 2007 left her paralyzed from the chest down. At the time, the 21-year-old woman was in college.
McKenzie has a T4 spinal cord injury, which means that she needs a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
“I wanted to become a buyer and travel and all that fun stuff; it was something that I was passionate about,” McKenzie told “And then I was in my car accident and kind of felt like maybe the fashion industry wasn’t the right path to take right then.”
She completed college with a degree in small business management. Then, she competed in a beauty pageant and was crowned Miss Wheelchair Kentucky in 2012.
While competing at Ms. Wheelchair America, McKenzie was struck by the lack of clothing options among the other young women in the pageant. She didn't win the competition, but she walked away with a new mission — wheelchair-friendly fashion.
McKenzie’s passion for fashion had found new life and she partnered with designer Alexandra Tidwell and together they produced the first pair of Alter Ur Ego blue jeans.
Jeans found in retail stores are difficult to put on and uncomfortable to wear for people who cannot move their legs. People in wheelchairs are stuck with baggy pants or unflattering sweatpants.
The fashion duo have raised $16,908 of their $20,000 fundraising goal through Kickstarter to help get the project off the ground.
McKenzie and Tidwell have developed an adaptable jean that is designed to be comfortable for people in wheelchairs. Features include pockets on the thighs, high waist, and an opening for catheter use. They have also added a tummy-control panel to make the jeans more flattering on the body.
"I’ve tested the prototype with some of my 'wheelie' friends, and they agree it’s exactly what we’ve been looking for," wrote McKenzie on the Kickstarter page.
McKenzie plans to make jeans for men and women in a range of sizes. The price for the jeans start at $80 and will be made in North Carolina.
If the jeans line takes off, McKenzie wants to launch a full clothing line of shirts, jackets, dress pants and shoes.
More about adaptable jeans, Alter UR Ego, wheelchairfriendly jeans, Ms Wheelchair America
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