Clothing store caters to physically challenged

Waneta Steinberg and husband Ken demonstrate adaptive wear that is easier to put on because of snaps at the back. 
Cathy DobsonWaneta Steinberg and husband Ken demonstrate adaptive wear that is easier to put on because of snaps at the back. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Waneta Steinberg was volunteering at a local retirement home when she noticed a resident with physical challenges wearing clothes that made getting dressed much easier.

“He had on a polo shirt that looked like a regular shirt but it did up at the back. It was a big moment, like the earth moved for me,” she said.

“It’s so difficult for a lot of people to get dressed. I thought what a simple solution, and something I never thought of.”

That got her thinking of when she worked as a health care aid. Helping clients dress would have been so much easier with adaptive clothing.

“It would have made their lives significantly better too,” she said. “Adaptive clothing allows people to dress faster, more safely and in a more dignified manner.”

As the population ages, the market grows for comfortable shirts, pants, dresses, footwear, nightwear and blouses with easy clasps, snaps and Velcro closings, cuts that are easy to put on in a wheelchair and designs that accommodate catheters and other devices, said Steinberg.

“It’s just a matter of educating people and getting the word out.”

She and husband Ken are enrolled in Lambton College’s business administration program. They worked with the Sarnia Lambton Business Development Centre to write a business plan, secured a start-up micro loan from the SLBDC and opened Love Adaptive Wear three months ago.

“Adaptive clothing fulfills a real need that’s there, and, so far, only a few companies supply it,” said Ken Steinberg.

“But mainstream clothing lines have recognized the need and are working on their own lines. Fashion designers see that demand too and are working on adaptive wear for professional people, like the businessman in a wheelchair.

“It’s something that is going to get really big and we wanted to be the first to carry it in Sarnia.”

Because adaptive wear is not yet mainstream the Steinbergs are networking with local nursing homes and other retailers who cater to people with disabilities. They also do in-home consultations.

Love Adaptive Wear is stocked by a Toronto company called Silvert’s that makes nearly all its clothing in Canada.

Clients are surprised to see how normal adaptive clothing looks because the special openings and snaps are hidden from view, said Ken.

Nightgowns with snaps at the back and complete coverage are one of the Steinbergs’ best sellers. They retail for $35.  Men’s wear is also going over well with shirts (sizes small to 4XL) selling for $50 to $60. Adaptive pants cost about $50 a pair and polo shirts are $45. Women’s dresses come in all sorts of colours and styles, go on like a hospital gown with hidden snaps, and sell for $50 to $80 each. Point of sale exemptions for GST and HST are possible with a doctor’s form.

Waneta Steinberg also provides alteration services to convert regular clothing into adaptive wear, generally for $10 an item.

“We got into this to help people because we know how physically hard it can be to get dressed,” she said. “We’ve had customers tell us they couldn’t get anything on before except pajamas. Now they can have something that looks good to go out in public.”

Love Adaptive Wear is at 940 Murphy Road in the Wiltshire Plaza.  Visit www.LoveAdaptiveWear.com or call 519-339-9700.

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Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at cathy.dobson@sympatico.ca or call 226-932-0985.