Earlier this year the shop window of a small bridal shop in Bristol hit the headlines for featuring a mannequin bride using a wheelchair, with the image receiving plaudits across the world. However, the coverage also raised questions as to why there’s a lack of diversity on the high street
Sophie Morgan, an artist and TV presenter, who is also a wheelchair user, was determined to see a change on the high street and created the ‘Mannequal’. A stylised wheelchair used alongside mannequins, the Mannequal is a symbol of inclusivity while also a style guide for disabled shoppers as it shows how the clothes would look from a seated position.
Sophie explained: “The Mannequal says to shoppers, ‘people with disabilities are welcome here. We’ve considered them and we know what their needs are.’”
While the Mannequal helps represent shoppers who are wheelchair users, blogger Naomi G suggests that mannequins with a range of visible disabilities should be introduced to shop windows across the country.
Naomi said: “Mannequins who are “differently normal” and represent different disabilities/ impairments should be everywhere. After all there are over 11 million people with disabilities in the U.K.”
More pressing, however, is the need for more disabled people to be employed in shops. Retail is one of the largest sectors in the UK economy which makes the lack of diversity and inclusivity all the more frustrating. According to the managing director of fashion recruitment agency, HGA Group, Harveen Gill, this lack of diversity is troubling and needs to change.
Harveen explained: “I can’t remember when I last saw [someone working in retail] with a physical disability. I think companies are so far behind that it doesn’t even really register.”
Change seems to be around the corner though. Marks & Spencer have partnered up with disability specialists, Remploy to ensure they’re focussed on inclusivity when they’re on the lookout for new staff members.
Over 12,000 businesses are also committed to the Disability Confident Scheme – challenging and changing behaviour to ensure they are employing and retaining disabled talent.