Written by Anna Chamberlin, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
Today’s Care. Tomorrow’s Cure.® Aug. 13, 2019
Buttons 2 Button by Wareologie is a product, founded by Gina Adams, which makes fashion choices more accessible to individuals living with a disability. They are magnetic covers for buttons that easily snap together to allow anyone, even someone with no movement of their hands, to use them.
“30 million people have hand limitations and rely on someone else to get dressed. We have a really unique opportunity with a simple, affordable solution to help restore tremendous levels of dignity,” Gina explained. She envisions adapters being helpful to a broad range of individuals living with disabilities such as spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons, arthritis or recovering from hand surgery.
Gina wanted to create a product that is accessible to all and restores confidence to people living with disabilities. She understands how frustrating it is for someone not to be able to get dressed on their own, as her stepfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. This lead to the creation of Wareologie, which is the backing company for the product Buttons 2 Button, and hopefully similar, helpful products in the future. However, she revealed that the idea for this company actually came about decades earlier as she worked in the corporate, social, and civil sector throughout her career. “When I was working for North Face, I knew clothing made for able-bodied people doesn’t work for people with disabilities. This is a really underserved group of active people. These are the most courageous people, yet they have to use duct tape to keep their mittens on. So this company was basically conceived 20 years ago when I identified this problem.”
Eventually, she had the idea to create a company that combined all these passions in a way that would benefit the community.
Developing magnet buttons
When she first had the idea of starting a company, she looked for inspiration from the paralysis community. She went around asking members of the community two questions: What are you doing right now to help with clothing? Moreover, what do you wish you had to help with clothing? She found that many people who were living with spinal cord injury had manipulated accessories to adapt to their daily lives. She took inspiration from these adaptations and began developing ideas for her products.
While looking for feedback, she met James Murtha, who sustained a C4 level injury, leaving him with high-level quadriplegia with limited movement in arms, and no movement in his legs and hands. After speaking with him, the idea for Buttons 2 Button was born.
During their first encounter, James revealed how he managed to stay warm using flannel shirts wrapped around his neck as a scarf. He also explained to her how the sleeves would frequently unravel, and he wished that there was some way they can snap together magnetically to prevent that from happening all the time. Gina took this idea and thought about how it could become a product to serve the communities needs.
“My intention was more for those sleeves to keep together, not for a dress shirt but that’s what Gina ended up coming up with, and it works so well,” James said. About a year later, James checked in to see the progress she had made, learning that his idea was becoming a reality. Gina, seeing the benefit of having his perspective, offered him a position on the team as Chief Innovation Officer where he designs, develops, and tests products.
Buttons 2 Button is beginning to take off under the help of Gina, James, and the other members of the team. The marketing aspect of their product is more important than ever; this is because their intentions are more than just making money.
“Products and services need to have that exposure to get it to people. I already see what effect this has on the overall community and the market. I mean it’s already made an impact in the last several years with different brands. For a while, it was only disabled people working on adaptive clothing, but now big companies like Tommy Hilfiger and Target are starting to create adaptive products or at least supply them,” James said.”It’s creating awareness to this population of need.”
Wareologie is a company that not only makes people’s lives better by supplying adaptive clothing but by also raising awareness for more companies to do the same. They not only strive to be a major company that makes adaptive apparel, accessories, and beyond, but they hope that all companies can gain inspiration from them and make their products accessible to people living with a disability as well.