Adapting fashion to people with disabilities

The startup certifies that major brand clothing is inclusive for those who have difficulty dressing

Most of us button a shirt or tie our shoelaces without a second thought, but it can be a daily challenge for the one billion people in the world who live with a disability.

A Tel Aviv startup is taking up this challenge by encouraging fashion brands to make their clothes more accessible – using magnetic buttons, Velcro closures and clasps to make it possible to close while sitting, standing or lying down.

Palata operates the world’s first certification program for apparel and products deemed inclusive for people who have difficulty dressing due to autism, cerebral palsy, arthritis or other motor impairments. Its certification analyzes user data and feedback, and uses 3D modeling to improve the inclusiveness of brands’ apparel.

The official uniform for the Israeli athletes of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, designed by Palta. Courtesy

“Palta harnesses data to democratize the world of fashion and apply the next generation of shopping and dressing for the world’s largest minority,” says Shay Senior, CEO and co-founder of Palta.

“We offer companies a complete package to become more inclusive, from the shopping experience to the dressing of the individual.”

Many garments can be easily adapted to suit people with disabilities as well as people without disabilities. Examples include one-piece outfits, clothes with easy access points for medical equipment like a feeding tube, pants that cut higher in the back and lower in the front so that they are more comfortable for wheelchair users, and shoes that allow the wearer to enter them without force.

Palta’s inclusive design understand Braille labels, 3D-printed Braille catalogs, digital labels (QR codes) that connect to a chatbot service, smart fabrics and multifunctional clothing.

Shay Senior, CEO and co-founder of Palta. Courtesy

Senior founded Palta after injuring his right arm during his military service in the Israeli army (Israel Defense Forces) and undergoing a long rehabilitation process. He suffered from many daily activities, such as grasping objects and shaking hands.

“I noticed that the conversation around me changed depending on what brand of clothing I chose to wear that day. I realized how much clothes have an influence on who we are and what we stand for,”

“It got me so interested in this and made me realize that people with disabilities aren’t really included and don’t have a place in the fashion world.”

Palta’s first major victory was the design of the official uniform for Israeli athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. He used his methodology, which involves data analysis, user feedback and 3D modeling, to create an inclusive collection suitable for all participants.

Each outfit has been designed to be as accessible as possible to meet the broadest needs and disabilities. For instance, some outfits had increased girth width for those with bionic arms. Other people with reduced mobility have had their uniforms adjusted, making the difference between being able to dress independently or needing assistance.

“Clothes empower us and allow our self-expression to be the best it can be,” he says. “It especially has to happen in a team that represents our country – it’s the only thing that unites them.”

A Certification Program and Inclusivity Educator

Palta’s primary function is to rate brands on the inclusiveness of their apparel. After rating the garments, Palta assists the brand through workshops with their design teams who teach brands how to create designs that provide better mobility and teach them how to deliver the message of inclusivity through better marketing and public relations.

“These three things influence the most people with disabilities and determine whether they would be able to wear a product and how they would feel in it,” Senior told NoCamels.

A photo of Palta’s first inclusive design course for freshmen at the Neri Bloomfield Academy of Design and Fashion in Haifa. Courtesy of Theia Frank

“Based on these parameters, we evaluate all the information we can receive from a brand. If it matches the defined parameters, the garment would get a score, and from there, the brand could take action.

Palta also began educating the next generation of designers. The company offers a course for first-year fashion design students, sharing with them the elements or methodology of how to do things that are suitable for people with disabilities. Senior believes that if they see the benefits of inclusive design early in their studies, it will be easier in the future to consider people with disabilities as an audience and as a potential customer.

“When this new generation of fashion designers work for a brand or create their own collection, they won’t be afraid to design for others,” he says.

The Neri Bloomfield Academy of Design and Education, the leading professional and academic institution of higher art education in Haifa, northern Israel, is the first college to offer Palta’s course. Palta plans to expand its program to more Israeli cities and countries and is in talks with universities in the United States, Italy and London.

Palta co-founders Shai Senior (center) and Netanel Yehuda-Halevi (right) collaborate with Israeli designer Dorin Frankfurt (left) to create more inclusive clothing. Courtesy

Palta works with several Israeli companies, including Dorin Frankfurtone of Israel’s best-known designers, Delta Galilan Israeli textile company that owns several major brands (Athena, Delta, 7 For All Mankind) and selected clothing licenses for the world’s largest brands (Adidas, Calvin Klein Kids, Ralph Lauren), and Digital Kornita manufacturer of industrial and commercial printing solutions for the apparel and textile industries.

She also collaborates with streetwear and sportswear brands in North America and an underwear company in Europe.

As for the future, Palta aims to expand its inclusivity across different fashion categories (including footwear and accessories), help more brands become more inclusive for people with disabilities, and design collections for many delegations to Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

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