Letter: Disabled dress

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The Independent Online
YOUR ARTICLE on the imminent court cases regarding dress codes that prevent women wearing trousers at work ("Europe offers women a dressing down", 14 November) omits to mention that this issue particularly affects disabled women.

In 1959 I had polio, which left me with very restricted leg movement and poor circulation. In 1973, as a student teacher, I had a holiday job in a newsagency chain run by directors who were all ex-military men. Women employees were not allowed to wear trousers. The job involved climbing stepladders to reach top shelves and bending to reach low shelves, neither of which I could do without showing more than any employee would wish to customers and fellow staff. The shop manager took his job in his hands and risked letting me wear trousers. Had the area manager visited, we would both have been fired.

I then taught small children for more than 20 years until my condition deteriorated and I retired early. That career required lots of getting up and down from tiny chairs, bending over small children, etc. I always wore trousers and my female bosses were very understanding. I have no doubt, however, that my trouser-wearing was judged by some as eccentric and probably did not help my image and, thus, career.

I can hardly believe that more than a quarter-century later schoolgirls and female employees are still having to fight to be "allowed" the same range of sensible clothing options that males have as of right. Incidentally, the area in which I taught has a concentration of Muslim pupils, and for them trousers are also a female dress requirement.


Birstall, Leicestershire