Regrettably, the fashion industry in particular has been notoriously slow to embrace anyone who doesn’t fit the mold. Sue Moore, Zebedee’s head booker, says she would get “quite a lot of negativity,” as recently as two years ago, when pitching talent to brands for potential campaigns. “They’d say, ‘No, I don’t think we’re ready for that yet,'” says Moore.
Today, slowly but surely, “the tide is turning,” Moore says. “Some of our biggest wins are the smallest of jobs to other agencies — like e-commerce [shoots],” adds Proctor. “It’s those jobs [with clients] that probably hadn’t considered a talent who had a disability or a visible difference [before].”
Proctor, Johnson, and Moore have helped open doors for models with disabilities, but it’s up to everyone in the industry — from brand execs to stylists to photographers — to create an accessible environment they can stride through confidently.
That might mean having a sign language interpreter on standby during a shoot, or ensuring a studio has ramp access for a model in a wheelchair. “We talk with our models about their needs, and have a very open dialogue with our clients as well,” says Proctor. “We have a no-silly-questions policy, whether it’s regarding a fitting room or toilet.… It’s got to be a positive experience for everyone.”