I have a distracting physical disability. Whether or not I like it, it's the truth. People remember me by the way I eat with my feet or the way my arms dangle limp at my sides. Even when I try on clothes at the department store, I have to force myself to look at the clothes instead of the frail arms being swallowed up in them. Even with my life experiences, I was shocked to read that New York Fashion Week featured Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, who was named Ms. Wheelchair New York in 2012.
Photo credit: Craig Barritt/Stringer/Getty Images Entertainment

New York Fashion Week ended yesterday, but the buzz one designer created could go on for quite a while. No, this is not about a wardrobe malfunction or an eating disorder. In a startling step away from the trend, designer Carrie Hammer chose to select "role models, not runway models," to present her line.

Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, who was named Ms. Wheelchair New York in 2012, was one of Hammer's models, and the first to grace the runway in a wheelchair.

Even as a person with a physical disability myself, I have to admit that my first reaction was pure shock. People like me do more and more amazing things every day. (Check out this pianist with a disability!) However, modeling is not something you see us doing. It's not about disability — it's about distraction.

I hope one day this won't be the case, but physical disabilities are very distracting. In fact, it was several minutes after I saw the photo of Dr. Sheypuk on the runway that I thought, "Wait! What was she even wearing?" Not an ideal situation if you're a designer intending to showcase your trendy new line.

I was so shocked by the designer's choice, in fact, that I tracked her down and chatted with her via Skype, as she's in London at the moment.

All my clients are CEOs, newscasters, executives… I wasn't doing them justice by sending down this vision of this woman that wasn't them nor what I'd want them to be.

"The [clothing] line is all about powerful business women," Hammer said. "Most models are 18, 19, even 16. All my clients are CEOs, newscasters, executives… I wasn't doing them justice by sending down this vision of this woman that wasn't them nor what I'd want them to be."

The beautiful ladies wearing Carrie Hammer this year were not models by profession. Instead, she chose the exact sort of executive women who would buy Hammer's line. They were all her clients or friends of clients.

Because she's already close with Dr. Sheypuk, she didn't see the wheelchair as a distraction. In fact, she didn't see the wheelchair. She saw her powerful friend making a powerful statement.

"These role models were so excited to be there," Hammer said. "There was an energy and electricity like I've never felt before."

Clothing might fit a little differently on a person with a disability, but everyone who buys from Carrie Hammer is unique, too. "Everyone comes in saying, 'Nothing ever fits me here,'" she says. "We all have something." Surely I couldn't expect clothing to fit me just like they fit a professional model, either.

Could there come a day when we're so used to differences that they are no longer distracting?

Even as I spoke with her, I found myself fighting tears as I had to acknowledge that there's more out there for people like me than I'd ever imagined. Could there come a day when we're so used to differences that they are no longer distracting? There are very few things in this life that I've believed to be out of my reach. In fact, modeling and professional tennis might be the only two. I wonder if, in my lifetime, a model in a wheelchair won't be news?

Hammer hopes for the same. "We shouldn't be like, 'Oh that model's in a wheelchair,' we should be like, 'Oh, she's hot. I want that skirt!'"

As a society, we're not there yet. Heck, I as an individual with a disability am not even there yet. But we are collectively one step closer. Thanks, Carrie Hammer and your role models for reminding us what powerful women look like.

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