Q&A with Grace Jun, Assistant Professor at the School of Fashion at Parsons School of Design

Grace Jun is a designer, educator, and social entrepreneur based in New York. By merging fashion with technology, she pushes the boundaries of universal design to be inclusive of disability and aging.

When did you first get started in accessibility?

I can recall my first introduction to accessibility in two ways: (1) Design & (2) Community Engagement Service. I was on the team for SAMSUNG Core; a smartphone designed to target the elderly in 2012. As a UX designer, I was responsible to think about gesture, finger and hand interaction in regard to how touch screens would affect those with paralysis or challenges in dexterity. Second, as part of my work in Samsung, I had volunteered to teach art at a community school (orphanage) for young children who have hearing impairments.

The Open Style Lab was established in 2014. Since that time, have you noticed any changes in public attitudes toward accessible fashion and its importance?

Absolutely, I think the fact rising companies are starting to take notice in fashion, retail, and health are good indications of accessibility pushing barriers. Tech companies recently such as IBM, Microsoft, and Apple have also introduced inclusive design principles.

Fashion and clothing can sometimes have high costs associated with it, which can add yet another barrier to entry. How have you reckoned with this in your work?

We tried to kickstart a project in 2015 called the Rayn Jacket and immediately found price to be a barrier. I think other than price, we have focused on the experiences of not just having product released, but considering an inclusive experience when designing a product. We are taking out time and investing in research that looks at universal design principles across people of various abilities.

In past interviews, you have said that there is an overlap between disability, aging, and universal design. Could you say a bit more about that?

There are common elements in clothing design and wearable technologies that I can see applied to people across different disabilities. For example, range of motion called for larger arm holes in a top garment (such as a shirt or jacket), and it’s a quite common need for those who have experienced stroke or have cerebral palsy. We are linking those commonalities to find designs that truly can fit across all bodies.

What is a major accessibility barrier that you would like to see solved?

I would like to see the social stigma removed from disability, and in particular, challenging education to make inclusion a part of the system.

I think the fact rising companies are starting to take notice in fashion, retail, and health are good indications of accessibility pushing barriers.

One comment:

  1. Open Style Lab does such great work! Whether you’re a designer interested in learning how to incorporate the needs of people with disabilities into your designs or you’re a person with a disability interested in having a custom garment designed for you, I highly recommend participating!

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