After a car accident in 2007 I became a t4 paraplegic. I had a long road to recovery that included having to learn my new normal as someone in a wheelchair. In 2011 I graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in small business management and was crowned Ms Wheelchair Kentucky 2012. My experiences and achievements made me an advocate for those in wheelchairs and I got to travel the U.S. and share my story.
I went on to compete in Ms Wheelchair America and although I didn’t win it was an amazing experience. The most important aspect of the competition was realizing the common struggle my new friends in wheelchairs and I face in finding fashionable, functional clothing. Before my accident I was pursuing a fashion merchandising degree in hopes of becoming a buyer. I’ve always been interested in fashion, from picking out my own outfits at a young age to designing my senior-high prom dress.
That passion didn’t evaporate after my accident but I had to figure out if I was ready to be a part of the fashion industry as a woman in a wheelchair.Building a business is difficult. Building a business that targets a niche market is even more difficult. But if no one accepted these challenges, a lot of people would go without products that make their lives easier.
So, I researched the idea of an adaptable clothing company for people in wheelchairs and came across just a handful of companies. That’s when Alter Ur Ego was born. We make you look good so you feel good. I want to make it possible for those with disabilities to express their "alter-ego" through fashion while breaking down social barriers.
And I admit that my company grew out of a personal problem.Too many people in wheelchairs live in sweats only because they’re the easiest pants to get on and off. I want to change that. Just like everyone else, people in wheelchairs want to feel confident about how we present ourselves through the clothes that we wear. We have a right to feel good about ourselves, too. I wore jeans before my accident and I didn’t want my new normal to change what I was able to wear.
Putting on a pair of jeans after my accident made me feel good, but I couldn’t find a pair that fit just right. After becoming paraplegic regular jeans weren’t functional. They were too short to cover my ankles while seated in my chair, too tight around my hips for comfortable movement, and too short in the rise to cover my crack if I bent over. Also, the pockets weren’t accessible to me. Worst of all, the rivets on the back pockets caused sores, and trying to find stylish options without rivets was impossible. I knew my problem wasn’t unique because jeans are arguably America’s favorite pants—nearly everyone has them in their closet.
In July 2015 I launched a kickstarter campaign for my company, "Alter UR Ego: Wheelchair Fashion, Made in the USA," and it was successfully funded. More than 460 backers came together to make Alter Ur Ego a reality! Once the media caught the story it spread like wild fire. Articles were featured on Yahoo News, Mashable, Huffington Post, GOOD Magazine, Hello Giggles, Digital Journal, Fox News, LifeNews.com, and EcoSalon; written in Japanese and Portuguese; and even reached MTV Finland and a blogger in Scotland.