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Adaptive clothing 'life-changing' for people with disabilities

"I feel more confident when I'm going into meetings for the first time," Donald Whitehead said. "In the business world, that first impression is everything."

Corrie Domingo, a stylist and designer at Balani Custom Clothier, didn’t expect a video she posted online to go viral. But it did.

The 10-second video showed a young client with cerebral palsy buttoning up his dress shirt, before giving the camera a big smile.

Domingo could be heard in the background, squealing with excitement.

“There were bumps along the way in designing the shirt,” Domingo said.

“Searching for the right-size magnets was hard. There was a lot of going back and forth, talking to the tailors.”

But this isn’t the first time a customer has come into the River Oaks store with requests that went beyond aesthetics.

Donald Whitehead said Balani President Christian Boehm approached him several years about about making custom suits.

Whitehead said he had been down that path before, but until then, no tailor had gotten it just right.

“You’d be surprised by how hard it is to get your pants on when you can’t stand up,” Whitehead explained.

Whitehead has been wheelchair-bound since 1994, after a spinal cord injury left him paralyzed from the waist down.

As a financial planner, he’s always had to dress professionally, but suits and wheelchairs could be a recipe for disaster.

“The extra material gets in the way of your hands, your wheels, your motions,” Whitehead said. “Then you can have an accident, which has happened to me in the past.”

Boehm did things differently: Measuring for pants with Whitehead seated, shortening the back of the jacket and making sure pockets were sewn differently for easy access while sitting.

Whitehead says those adjustments have been life-changing.

“I feel more confident when I’m going into meetings for the first time,” he said. “In the business world, that first impression is everything, and I don’t want to look sloppy.”