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Speaker Who Uses Wheelchair Unable to Access Stage at Disability Inclusion Panel

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A model with a disability was unable to speak at a panel about inclusion in fashion after the event didn’t provide her with a wheelchair ramp.

Chelsey Jay, 24, from Essex, England, was attending The Clothes Show, an annual consumer exhibition, to speak about disability inclusion in the fashion industry as part of a seminar.

However, when Jay arrived at the event in Birmingham, England on Tuesday Dec. 8, they’d begun the panel discussion without her and not provided a wheelchair ramp for her to access the stage, which was about 15 inches off the ground, she said in a statement on Twitter. Jay, humiliated, left the event without getting to speak.

Jay has Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome, or POTs, a rare condition that affects the autonomic system and can cause a person to pass out upon standing up. When she was 20, Jay was working in a hospital ward training to be a nurse when she suddenly passed out and was later diagnosed with the condition, according to her website.

“It was literally like I woke up that morning a normal 20-year-old, passed out, then woke up trapped inside the body of an 80-year-old. My mind was the same, but my body, my body was alien to me, like it wasn’t my body anymore,” Jay wrote on her website, about the moment POTS first affected her. “I’ve literally never been so terrified in my whole life, in that moment, that feeling, unexplainable.”

In the four years since her diagnosis, Jay has become the director of disability at an advocacy group called Models Of Diversity, working to make the fashion industry more inclusive of models with disabilities. Her appearance at the seminar during The Clothes Show was on behalf of Models of Diversity.

“The fact that I was there to talk about disability inclusion in fashion, at a fashion event that excluded me, is laughable, but is not a joke,” Jay said in a statement. “It’s real life and it’s reality to so many disabled people every single day… Sadly, the Clothes Show has just perfectly highlighted the struggles I have had for the three years I’ve been campaigning for this.”

The Clothes Show said it was due to “genuine human error” that the access Jay required to take part in the seminar was not made available on time, according to a statement sent to The Mighty.

They’ve also made several attempts to apologize to both Jay and her organization, but Jay has refused their calls so they also apologized on social media.

“The Clothes Show is committed  to nurturing and supporting the future of British fashion by promoting diversity to visitors at the show and has a policy to present a healthy, positive body image and work with models from all ethnicities, sizes and ages to visitors,” The Clothes Show said in a statement. “The Clothes Show has always taken very seriously its duty of care to harness its influence among the show visitors through the way we present fashion on our catwalks as well as through our Education Program and content on our feature stage and will use our influence among young fashion-lovers in a responsible way. We will however continue to learn, and it is our intention going forward to build on how we represent all sectors of the community.”

For more on Chelsea Jay’s advocacy work, visit the Models of Diversity website. 

h/t The Huffington Post

Originally published: December 14, 2015
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