STYLE

Disabled Model Chelsey Jay 'Humiliated' As The Clothes Show Didn't Provide Wheelchair Ramp

11/12/2015 17:45 GMT | Updated 11/12/2015 19:59 GMT

A disabled model has spoken about the outrage she felt when she couldn't fulfill an invitation to speak at The Clothes Show because of a lack of wheelchair access.

"I am so humiliated and feel like a fool," said Chelsey Jay, 24, from Essex, who has Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and uses a wheelchair.

Jay said her disappointment was compounded because initially she had been thrilled to be invited to speak about disability and the fashion industry as part of a seminar at the event in Birmingham on Tuesday 8 December.

"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," she said. "It's real life and it's reality to so many disabled people every single day."

Jay had been invited to speak at the event in her role as director of disability at campaigning group Models Of Diversity, which is working to make the fashion industry more inclusive.

"I have been campaigning with Models Of Diversity for disability rights in fashion since I suddenly become disabled four years ago," she said.

"After communicating with the Clothes Show Live directors for over a year, I was offered a slot on the seminar panel, in which I could address the issue of disability inclusion in fashion in front of audience of fashion students.

"The day of the event came and I made the grueling four hour trip to Birmingham, having to get on three different trains from Essex, due to the limitations I constantly face as a disabled traveller - its always complicated and time consuming," explained Jay.

"The fact that I did all this, and the journey back, for the treatment I received, only makes this whole thing worse."

Jay praised a security guard at the event called Andy, who met her at the lifts.

"He was so concerned at me pushing myself, as he enlightened me it was a mile from the station through to the NEC, that he left his post to aid me," she said.

"Andy subsequently stayed with me for the entire time, and I do not know what I would have done without this lovely stranger."

Jay said event organisers informed her there was 'a bit of a step' up to the stage and a ramp could be organised if needed.

"To which I said that 'if the step was a kerb height, I can pop my front wheels up'," said Jay.

"Little did I know the 'step' was not a 'step' at all but literally a 15 inch high, full on stage set up."

Jay arrived at the seminar room to discover the other panellists had started speaking 10 minutes early

"I was not happy that I hadn't been notified that they were starting early," said Jay. "Now I would be interrupting a room full of strangers and they would all be sat in silence seeing me pushed up a ramp onto the stage.

"I thought I was going to have a panic attack.

"Then it dawned on me. There was no ramp.

"I felt sick. I couldn't believe it. I left before I burst into tears in front of everyone."

After the event The Clothes Show tweeted Jay and Models Of Diversity to offer an apology and they have attempted to phone her, but Jay has so far not taken any of their calls.

"They also sent flowers, which is a kind gesture," said Jay. "But I am still in a very sad and fragile little place since the incident.

The Clothes Show sent the following statement to HuffPost UK Style:

"The Clothes Show invited Chelsey Jay to this year’s event as a guest, and due to genuine human error the access that she required to take part in our seminar was not made available on time.

"Clothes Show has written both privately and publicly to apologise for the considerable distress this caused Chelsey.

"Wishing to express this in the manner Chelsey deserves we have tried to speak to both Chelsey Jay and Models Of Diversity to apologise in person, rather than taking to social media, however they will not take our calls."

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The statement continues: "Although The Clothes Show 2015 closed its doors just three days ago, conversations started several months ago to review how the show can be even more inclusive going forward, however it is too early to announce our plans for 2016.

"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 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 Programme 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."

Models Of Diversity founder Angel Sinclair said: "I am utterly disgusted by Chelsey's treatment. Things need to change for disabled people.

"The fashion industry needs to look at making these shows accessible for disabled people.

"We at MOD our committed to helping the fashion industry in embracing change."

Jay has launched a petition asking for a representative ratio of disabled models in fashion shows and photoshoots.

On the petition page it states that one in six people are disabled, so Jay and her collaborators would like to see one disabled model employed for every five able bodied models.

"The petition is so very important, as it includes all the people who need to take responsibility for disabled people being treated in the awful way that they are in the fashion industry," said Jay.

"Sadly, the Clothes Show has just perfectly highlighted the struggles I have had for the three years I've been campaigning for this."