“Unfashion” breaks barriers at Wesmor

Jason Kerr
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“Unfashion” was in fashion at Wesmor Community Public High School in Prince Albert on Tuesday night.

Friends and family were on hand for the city’s second annual I Can Unfashion Show.  The show helps promote self-advocacy, self-esteem and self-confidence among people with disabilities, as well as building relationships between those with disabilities and those without.

“I’m not nervous, I’m excited,” show participant Trevor Fenderet says.  “I like it.  People like myself like doing it sometimes, walking around.  It’s kind of fun.”

“I’m excited because I’m the first guy to go up on the catwalk,” agrees fellow participant Troy Henderson.  “I got butterflies, but by the time I come up they’ll all probably be gone.”

Henderson and Fenderet were just two of 17 people who participated in the show, which was produced by the I Can Self-Advocacy Action Group.

I Can co-ordinator Megan Wells says there are too many barriers between those with disabilities and those without, which are mostly caused because the two groups don’t know how to relate to one another.

“The biggest thing that you can do for somebody who’s never hung out with somebody with a disability is just to invite them to do so and that’s what we do with our self-advocacy action group.”

The I Can Self-Advocacy group sponsors talks around the province in which speakers with disabilities discuss what it’s like to live with a disability.  They also take questions after.

Wells says it’s part of their attempt to create a culture of acceptance in the province, but they were having trouble getting people mobilized and excited.  That’s where the fashion show comes in.  The first one was held in Saskatoon and the idea has since spread around the province.

 “I think that it just brings people together in such a unique way,” Wells says.  “I know from the one in Saskatoon, it’s just an elevation.”

The show had that effect on the participants, who say they’ve noticed a boost of self-confidence in their friends and fellow participants.

“Some people don’t get (self-confidence), as a disabled person, because we’re sort of judged in some ways,” participant Kathy Thorpe says.  “We can work, we can do anything that we want, just as much as anybody else, and we’re people too.”

“I notice a shift in self-confidence with people quite a bit and that I think is such a wonderful thing,” Wells agrees.  “I think that we, as a society, maybe don’t build ourselves up very well, so this is one part of our community that we can do that with.”

The show also provided an opportunity for the fashion models to tell everyone a bit about themselves.   The participants say this helps them to deal with people in their everyday lives, such as when they’re getting groceries, or visiting the dentist.

“It helps other people to come out of their shells, to not be afraid of their disability,” Thorpe says.

“I think that in our society we’re really good at compartmentalizing people,” Wells agrees.  “With (the fashion show), it’s a bit of a different feel, so people aren’t used to it, but we’ll make them come around and we’ll keep having things like this so that people can get a sense of the culture that we’re trying to create in Saskatchewan.”

Organizations: Advocacy Action Group

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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