Designing a More Inclusive World

Special Olympics New York and Parsons School of Design students gathered at a work table to create figure skating clothing designs.
Special Olympics New York and Parsons School of Design students worked together to create prototypes of adaptive competitive figure skating gear.

As part of an effort to amplify the voice of Special Olympics across the world of sport and fashion, Special Olympics teamed up with the New School’s Parsons School of Design. The class began in January 2020 and was the first time Parsons worked to include people with intellectual disabilities in their curriculum.

Through a unified, collaborative approach, Parsons School of Design students and four Special Olympics New York athletes and a coach worked together to conceptualize, design and develop warm up uniforms and costumes for use during figure skating competitions and events. The semester-long course took place within the Parsons School of Design’s, School of Fashion, BFA program located in Manhattan, as a project-based learning opportunity in the Systems and Society curricular pathway of the program.

By the conclusion of the semester (which finished remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic), athletes and students created several prototype designs of performance-based gear. The Parsons students expressed gratitude to the Special Olympics New York athletes for teaching them how to think more holistically about adaptive clothing designs.

In fact, the pilot was so successful that Parsons is committed to hold an inclusive class each year with discussions in partnership with their France and China campuses.

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