Sinéad Burke is a three-and-a-half-foot Dublin-based teacher, PhD student and activist, who has made a powerful case for why it no longer makes financial sense for fashion brands to exclude consumers with disability, through a powerful talk at BoF VOICES 2017 as well as appearances at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Burke grew up with four “average-sized” siblings. Her parents founded the Irish Association for Restricted Growth in 1997, which was renamed Little People of Ireland. She trained as a primary school teacher, graduating from Marino Institute of Education at the top of her class, and is currently completing a PhD at Trinity College, Dublin on human rights education, specifically focusing on the ways in which schools allow children to have a voice.
Her advocacy of disabled people was brought to light through a TED Talk titled “Why design should include everyone.” An appearance at BoF VOICES in December 2017 launched her on a trajectory that culminated with four speaking sessions at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“My money and my existence is as valid as yours. I have spent my whole life trying to convince the world that I am intelligent, articulate, professional and an adult. And yet the fashion industry, unintentionally or not, does the exact opposite by what it offers,” said Burke at VOICES.
Burke has also developed a partnership with Burberry, who has made custom pieces adapted to Burke’s height and redesigned a section in their London headquarters to include railings and lower chairs and tables.
She is a recipient of the Vere Foster Medal from the Marino Institute of Education, and an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, A Lust for Life and the Irish Girl Guides. Burke was also included in British Vogue’s inaugural list of 25 women shaping the UK in 2018. She is now a contributing editor at the title.