How to Become a Model When You Have a Disability

Is it possible to rock the runway when you are disabled? Absolutely! There is a growing need for individuals who are disabled and willing to model.

Whether the model is missing an arm or leg or they have to use a cane or wheelchair, there are clients that are looking for these specific attributes. Models are needed to advertise products and services ranging from clothing to stock photos, not to mention working the catwalk wearing the latest fashions.

Woman in bikini in a wheelchair by pool
Regina Casagrande / Getty Images

Modeling Agencies for the Disabled

Modeling for the able-bodied is highly competitive, however, finding an agent if you are disabled may be easier. If you are interested in finding work as a disabled model, the following are the basic steps to take to find an agent:

Modeling Jobs

Finding an Agent

  • Use the Internet to locate a modeling agency that uses disabled models. Use search terms such as "disabled model agents" or "models with disabilities."
  • Use the yellow pages of your phone book to locate a modeling agency. Headings to look under include "modeling agencies" or "talent agencies."
  • Call prospective agencies to inquire if they are accepting new models. If they are, ask if they have open calls so that you can meet the agent or their representative in person.

The First Photo Shoot

While some agencies will take photos of you when they sign you, others will expect you to provide professional-looking photos for them to use to promote you. Professional doesn't have to mean expensive—many large retail stores provide photo services at prices almost anyone can afford.

Alternatively, some professional photographers are looking for models that they can use in their portfolios. They will often provide free photos for models to use in exchange for their time.

Don't Give Up

Expect to do some hard work in order to land an agent. While there are stories of some individuals walking into an agency and being signed on the spot, this isn't true for everyone. Agencies select models based on several factors; primarily a model should be photogenic and second, they must fit the "look" of the agency (i.e., exotic or high fashion).

Don't take no for an answer. If you don't land an agent right away, don't give up. Each agency is looking for something specific to offer their clients. Keep looking and you'll find an agent that is a perfect match for you.

Types of Modeling Jobs

There are many modeling jobs that a disabled model can do, depending upon the needs of a client and what the model has to offer.

  • An individual can be a runway model, a hand or leg model, even a hair model.
  • A model may be in a wheelchair or have a prosthetic limb.
  • They may be an individual who has an unseen disability or a visible one.

It doesn't matter what the disability is because there are modeling jobs that can accommodate virtually any disability.

Many photographers feel that working with a disabled model isn't much different than working with the able-bodied. They feel that once they get over being uncomfortable, the shoot goes very smooth.

Support for Disabled Models

If you think that there are only a few disabled models making a living at modeling, think again. There are many organizations and websites that are dedicated to helping disabled models make connections and network with professional agents and photographers.

Modeling is a viable career path for individuals with all types of disabilities. The following are just a few of the resources available to disabled models:

  • Models of Diversity—A British-based organization that advocates for "more diversity in models and demands that the fashion and marketing industries recognize the beauty in women of all races, ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities."
  • Model Mayhem—A website where all models can network with fellow models and professional photographers. Disabled models can discuss aspects of the modeling business in the forum.
  • Ouch! It's a Disability Thing—A U.K. based website, providing a wide variety of information on disability topics, including disabled models.
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