A girl has to look good

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on August 05, 2019 # Mobility

A spinal cord injury strips away so many things from the human experience. Aside from the obvious loss of mobility and sensation below the level of injury, there are many other clandestine unobvious deeper layers of a person's identity that are affected as well. Because the physical body changes in such a dramatic way, so does the physical presentation of oneself. This change in physicality often affects one's confidence in how they present themselves to the world; whether to family, friends, colleagues or even potential relationships.

For women, being fashionable, attractive and aesthetically presentable doesn't seem to be as important as they once were when walking due to a drop in confidence by being in a wheelchair. Buying nice clothes doesn't take precedence because clothes don't fit the same, and certain clothing like dresses and skirts don't functionally work anymore. The feet and ankles get incredibly swollen after sitting all day in a chair, eliminating wearing cute boots in colder months. To make matters more complicated, adaptive clothing is difficult to find, expensive and lackluster in variety. Because of this, my uniform has turned into a myriad of yoga pants, V-neck T-shirts and sandals as yoga pants not only keep the belly snuggled in but also provide stretch absent of seams, as a good old pair of dungarees would cause while seated in a chair all day. Man, do I miss my favorite worn-in jeans and cowboy boots.

Another challenge in the beautification process is the lack of proper access to beauty salons. Even wheelchair users need a good haircut, eyebrow wax or manicure/pedicure, because who doesn't love to be pampered at a salon? Sitting reclined in a comfortable hairdresser chair with somebody washing your hair, massaging your scalp and rubbing your feet and hands hits just the right note sometimes. It's a moment to check out, so enjoy the moment in full acknowledgment that a few minutes of pampering makes the heart sing. Yet the challenge is finding a salon that will accommodate a wheelchair such as mine, a large power wheelchair, as the washbasins and recliner chair are typically attached to each other not allowing the ability for a wheelchair to pull in and recline into the actual washbasin. Furthermore, most attached washbasin chairs are bolted to the floor therefore not allowing easy access for a roll in/rollout of a manual or power chair. These are the little things that are so frustrating when living a life from a chair's perspective; just because an injury has me seated should never negate the fact that I also want to be pampered and look beautiful.

Luckily, there are wonderful salons and salon owners that understand these realities of wheelchair users. One such salon that truly understands the difficulties and challenges that quadriplegics and paraplegics encounter during the beauty salon process is Stacy Kelley, owner of Moji, a Bang Salon, just steps away from Denver's well-known spinal cord injury rehabilitation center, Craig Hospital. It wasn't until after her own husband Chris' accident in 2012 that prompted her to follow a lifelong dream of opening up a beauty salon but also providing a salon that allows for both patients and visitors of Craig Hospital to receive beauty services in an adapted environment. Not only does she have purposeful unbolted chairs and washbasins, but also provides an adapted hair washing tray that all of her staff are trained in using and are more than welcome to jump in to lend a hand when someone like myself needs their head to be held during hair washing.

The sensation of having one's head held in the name of beauty is a welcomed, comforting and much appreciated act of kindness. It is clear not only to me, but I'm sure all of Stacy's wheelchair– user clientele that "no" doesn't register in her personal dictionary. She is a "yes" person and more beauty salons should follow her path of improvising, adapting and overcoming. Because in the end, we all need a little pampering, whether walking or rolling, to forget about life for a little while and be able to hold your head up high knowing that you are truly beautiful, inside and out.

Anything is possible…

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.