A local woman rocked the runway in New York City Thursday night at the first-ever “Blind Fashion Show” during New York Fashion Week.
Megan Mauney, of Jacksonville, was one of a small group of women selected to represent the visually impaired community as a model during the fashion show, held at performance venue Punto Space. The show was unique not only because the models were visually impaired women, but that the women were strutting their stuff without the traditional mobility aids of white canes or guide dogs. Instead, the women used dark textured tape on the floor and a fishing line to hold onto while navigating the runway.
Mauney, who has an inherited retinal degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa that causes peripheral vision loss, was excited to be a part of the show. “Being a part of NYFW…Who wouldn’t want to do that?!” she said.
When asked how she felt about not being able to use a traditional mobility aid, Mauney said it didn’t bother her at all. “Honestly, if I don’t have a cane or my dog, no one knows I’m blind. When I do have them, my whole identity becomes about them,” Mauney said. “No one knows my name or looks at me. It’s always about the dog. Most of the time I love being an advocate for blindness and guide dogs, but it was nice to spend an afternoon being celebrated for my blindness and having the attention be about me as a blind woman, not about my guide dog and how often he goes to the bathroom.”
The decision to hold a fashion show featuring blind women who were not using their mobility aids was not without controversy, though. Mauney said the producer told her there had been “a lot of negative reactions from the blind community,” mostly because of the decision to keep guide dogs and white canes out of the show. Mauney explained the choice to omit mobility aids was simply a way for the show to gain more media attention and therefore raise awareness more effectively. “I thought it was handled very respectfully.,” she added.
The Blind Fashion Show definitely did raise awareness and draw attention to vision impairment. It showed the world that blindness occurs in a wide range of people and that it doesn’t always look like you’d expect.
“So many people think blindness is absolute,” Mauney said. “You are either in the dark or you can see 20/20. Most of us are somewhere in between and our sight can change based on lighting, fatigue, and so on. Our lives (and this is true for anyone with a disability) are made easier when people understand limitations and work to make everything accessible. I was able to strut down a runway because of a fishing line and some tape. The world is becoming more accessible… It’s time now for individuals to educate themselves and not assume that people are incapable just because they experience the world differently.”