Sinéad Burke is a three-and-a-half-foot Dublin-based teacher, PhD student and activist. Through a powerful talk at BoF VOICES 2017, as well as appearances at the World Economic Forum in Davos, she made the case for why it no longer makes financial sense for fashion brands to exclude consumers with disability.
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 and in 2019 was the first little person to attend the Met Gala, where she wore a custom-made Gucci dress.