The Girl With The Purple Cane… On A Mission To Destigmatize Assistive Devices And Make Fashion Retail More Inclusive

by
Liz Jackson
FashionGood CausesHealth 6 Comments

On March 30, 2012, Liz Jackson woke up and “literally fell out of bed.” She was diagnosed with something called idiopathic neuropathy, an illness that affects the sensory and motor nerves of the peripheral nervous system, which carries information from the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to the rest of the body. It causes numbness, pain and weakness, for no apparent reason. Liz suddenly needed eyeglasses and a cane, which made her painfully aware of the stigma surrounding certain assistive devices and the lack of choice facing people who require them to navigate the world.

At first, “things fell apart” for Liz, but she started picking up the pieces, and with her signature purple cane in hand, set out on a mission to destigmatize assistive devices and make fashion retail more inclusive in the process.

“J.Crew sells eyeglasses… why don’t they sell canes?”

“What if Beats by Dre had an incredible hearing aid? What if Converse made sneakers with thicker rubber for people who drag their feet?” J.Crew, Liz’s favorite retailer, sells eyeglasses, so “Why don’t they sell canes?” she wanted to know.

After writing “YesJCrewCane” letters to the fashion giant and posts about them on her blog for two years, J.Crew called Liz on May 6, 2015 with the news she had been waiting for…


About This Video

In this Women You Should Know exclusive, we have the privilege of introducing you to 33-year-old writer and disability advocate, Liz Jackson… a.k.a. The Girl With The Purple Cane. Liz began journaling her story on MyCounterpane.com, a video-based platform founded by WYSK Kate Milliken that gives patients and caregivers dealing with a chronic illness a way to chronicle their moments based on how they feel. With the goal of helping others heal, MCP’s raw and emotionally honest storytelling format gives viewers something real to relate to and something tangible with which to compare their own experiences.

After discovering Liz on her site, Kate was inspired to celebrate her mission in a more significant way. So she reached out to us about telling Liz’s story. Without hesitation, we shouted a collective, “YES!” and Kate got to work creating this inspiring video, using different snipets from moments Liz uploaded to MCP. We are so honored to be part of this collaborative effort of women holding each other up.

To see more about Liz and her journey with idiopathic neuropathy, go to mycounterpane.com and use the magnifying glass to search for Liz Jackson. You can also follow Liz on her blog The Girl With The Purple Cane.

  • Interesting that when it’s a person in her 30s, everyone takes notice. But, when it’s women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s who’ve been doing the same work for decades, nobody noticed. Kudos for the attempt to get a youth- and able-bodied-obsessed company to expand their market, though. You know they won’t do it unless you can clearly demonstrate the potential for profits. This is, after all, America, a country with a mainstream culture that worships youth and temporarily able bodies while discounting absolutely the disabled, infirm, or, “old,” (which in business-speak is over 40).

    • Hi Luccia, I absolutely understand your frustration. And I believe we all need to be celebrated for the work that we’re doing in this overlooked field. I’d love to learn more about your passion and your advocacy.

  • Thanks so much for the love Women You Should Know! I hope you don’t mind me mentioning that I can still use everyone’s support. Would you consider signing my change.org/yesjcrewcane petition? Let’s change the world!

  • Allie McConnell

    Outstanding! As a designer new to the health/med/ability space, Liz is definitely a #womancrush. Congrats on the response from J.Crew! Great video– the subtle cane-tap at the end: brilliant. 🙂

  • Marcie Schonborn

    I have MS and have always found that the most off the wall fancy cane brought out conversation about my challenge. I am so proud of you that you have gone so many steps forward and brought major marketing into the support of all of us who are longing for normal. You are a hero maker.

  • Pingback: The Week In (Awesome!) Multiple Sclerosis News 7/15/2015 | MyCounterpane()

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