Tedwalks: Advocate Ashley Martin-Hanlon chats fashion, sexuality and life with a disability

In a series of original podcasts from CBC N.L., On The Go host Ted Blades takes a stroll around St. John's with a guest in tow to talk about the world today and our place in it.

Take a stroll around the mall with Ted Blades and Ashley Martin-Hanlon in this episode of Tedwalks

Ashley Martin-Hanlon says having a physical disability means adults are around more often to help with everyday tasks. It was only in university she got some much-needed space. (Easter Seals)

For Ashley Martin-Hanlon, a trip to the mall for new shoes isn't always simple. 

"I think it was at the end of elementary school, beginning of junior high, that I started to care. But at that time it was so difficult to find clothes that I convinced myself that I didn't care," she told CBC radio host Ted Blades during a stroll through the Avalon Mall for the podcast Tedwalks.

Have a listen below:

Where do fashion, puberty and electric wheelchairs meet? At the local mall, of course. 48:05

"I love the sparkly stuff then as now, but anything with a heel, that stilletto, that's out to this day. Not ever going to happen."

Martin-Hanlon uses a motorized wheelchair and spends most of her work day seated. Because of this, what she wears has to be functional and she can't judge an outfit based on what is presented in a store on a mannequin. 

"I had to ditch most of my long jackets recently. It was a bit of a sad moment." she said. 

"Oh, I love bags — bags always fit! Bags are a really easy way to make a statement when it's hard to make it with other clothes."

Own space

Martin-Hanlon said finding the right clothes growing up wasn't the only tough issue. So was discovering her sexuality and it wasn't until she was attending university that she had the space needed to discover that part of herself.

"When you grow up with a physical disability, you're so entwined with adults for longer than is — I don't like the word 'normal' — but for longer than is normal. Someone is dressing you, someone is washing your hair, someone is tying your shoes. Someone might be helping you go to the washroom or help you watch your skin for pressure sores," Martin-Hanlon said.

"When someone is doing that, it's hard to get the space to explore your sexuality." 

To listen to the full episode of Tedwalks with Ashley Martin-Hanlon, click here.

Listen to the entire Tedwalks series here at cbc.ca/onthego.