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The designer of the world’s first wheelchair for mannequins hopes her ground-breaking new product will be a step forward for disability equality in the high street.

The Mannequal made its first appearance on 3 September in the store window of the Oxford Street branch of Debenhams in London.

Debenhams used the Mannequal for the first time as it rolled out its first national fashion advertising campaign to feature a wheelchair-using model in the windows of all its 160 UK and Republic of Ireland stores.

The campaign followed a “really good reaction” to shots of the same model – Shannon Murray – in window displays in three stores earlier this year, which came after Debenhams was approached by the Channel 4 show How to Look Good Naked.

Murray praised Debenhams for its “dedication to represent real women on the high street.”

She added: “I’m hoping that eventually other brands will follow Debenhams’ lead and recognise the diversity of their customers.”

The Mannequal was designed by disabled artist, campaigner and model Sophie Morgan – who appeared in the BBC reality show Britain’s Missing Top Model – and allows retailers to show their mannequins using a wheelchair while modelling their latest fashions.

Morgan was inspired to design the Mannequal while browsing in a branch of Top Shop and seeing mannequins of different ethnicity, but wondering why there were no disabled mannequins.

She said: “It is quite difficult to represent every different disability, so I was thinking about the most generic way to represent disabled people.

“Although I use a wheelchair, I don’t want people to think I designed it to represent just wheelchair-users. The Mannequal is a symbol that represents all disabilities.

“The idea is to make it as easy and straightforward as possible to bring disability onto the high street. The idea is to be as subtle as possible, so the focus is still on the clothing.”

A Debenhams spokeswoman said they were trialling the Mannequal at its Oxford Street store to gauge public reaction.

She added: “We had never seen anything like it before until Sophie came to us.”

As well as its Debenhams appearance, the Mannequal is also appearing in the Katie & Jo boutique at 253 New King’s Road, London.

To see pictures of the Mannequal, visit www.mannequal.com

6 September 2010