Edmonton designer invents winter outfit for people with mobility issues

A University of Alberta professor has come up with a garment specially designed for people with mobility issues to enjoy outdoor activities in cold temperatures.

'Now he's ready to go outside every chance he gets'

Ross Wein pushes his son Danny Wein. Megan Strickfaden (left) has designed a clothing system to help people with limited mobility get outdoors in Alberta winters. (Jessica Fern Facette)

Danny Wein was on the top of the world.

He had just graduated from the University of Alberta in Biosciences in 1998 and was planning to attend the University of British Columbia.

First though, Wein and two friends would take the trip of a lifetime, touring South America on motorcycles.

However, while heading to Bogota, Columbia, he was hit by a truck and suffered a severe, permanent brain injury.

"He loved his work in lakes and streams," his father Ross Wein told CBC's Edmonton AM. "He was a black diamond skier, a scuba diver, and you know, the whole works. He was cut off from that."

After weeks in hospital and years of rehabilitation, his son is now conscious of his surroundings.

"Now he's ready to go outside every chance he gets," Wein said.

Thanks to a new clothing design by Megan Strickfaden, an associate professor of material culture and design studies at the University of Alberta, Danny Wein can go out for longer and in a wider range of weather.

Strickfaden has come up with a prototype of a winter outfit made specifically for people with mobility issues.
Megan Strickfaden has three family members with mobility issues. (Supplied)

"I thought about people with mobility challenges who might not have arms or legs who might have limited ability to use their arms and legs," she said in an interview on Edmonton AM.

"They might be in a wheelchair, they may be blind, they may be using canes."

Having been around three family members with mobility issues, Strickfaden pieced together a "clothing system" to help people enjoy the outdoors.

"I grew up knowing that disability was not about what people could not do, it was about what they could do," she explained.

"So, I'm really inspired to create design solutions that really work toward people's abilities, rather than disabling them further."

How it works

The three-part garment has a cape-like top and two bottoms — one that looks like a sleeping bag and the other resembles snow pants.

A triple-zip function with easy-slide zippers on both the cape and leg cover allows either the person wearing the garment or a caregiver to open up anywhere along the body, Strickfaden explained.

"It really helps us because if it means that if somebody has a colostomy bag, you can upzip near the top; you can create venting if they're overheating; you can unzip at the feet and check foot temperature." 
The adaptive three-piece garment has easy-slide zippers and pulls. (Jessica Fern Facette)

The clothing includes sturdy pulls that make it easier for caregivers to attach the clothing to equipment.

Ross said his son needed something other than a winter coat.

"Every time we get him outdoors, it improves his quality of life.

"The wilder the weather, the better he likes it because that's what he was accustomed to before the accident."

Strickfaden said with help from experts at Dong Hwa University in China, the prototype will go through a year of testing before it's ready for the assembly line.

Her long-term goal is to produce the garment in batches and work with Alberta Ability Lodges Society, a non-profit group started by Wein, to make the garment available online.