Maitland hair salon Shear Abilities caters to those with disabilities

“I DON’T want an everyday job, I just want to make a difference.”


With those words, Desiree McDonald explains her ultimate motivation in opening Shear Abilities, a hair salon in Maitland which does standard hair cuts but has been carefully adapted for clients with disabilities.

For starters, the High Street salon has three types of salon shampoo stations. One is standard, the second was imported from Germany and can be adjusted to allow those in a wheelchair to use it; the third is fitted wit a reclining seat that allows clients with mobility issues to lie horizontally.

The wheel-chair friendly salon has a disabled toilet and a designated ply room full of sensory toys for children on the spectrum or with disabilities.Mrs McDonald fitted out the clinic after consultations with local Maitland business One Stop Sensory Shop.

Still being fitted out is a private room to allow women who wear headscarves because they have lost their hair during chemotherapy to have a wig fitted in private. Mrs McDonald said Muslim women who cannot remove their headscarves in public could also use the facility.

Mrs McDonald, who has previously run a mobile hair salon and worked as a Family Day care educator, has six children.

Her 17-year-old daughter Shariah has cerebral palsy on her left side. She cannot place her left leg flat on the ground and has a slight speech impediment that worsens when she is nervous.

“Teenagers have to deal with hormones but if you put a disability on top it can be even tougher for them to cope,” Mrs McDonald says.

Though Shariah’s situation was not the catalyst for her decision to open her new business, Mrs McDonald says it was a factor.

“I have known that there is a need for this type of salon but the icing on the cake was my daughter, because I’ve been around teenagers with mild disabilities,” she says.

Mrs McDonald believes people with disabilities are often swept under the carpet in society and finds it “heartbreaking” that their varying needs are better considered.

“If we help want to have a salon where everyone feels included and feel like they belong.”

“If we can all play a part we can help people become more aware of those who live with disabilities.”

Mrs McDonald says she has worked in many salons over the years and while some said they catered to those with disabilities, more could have been done to assist those with limitations.

She said she experienced a lot of trauma in her life and it had driven her to want to assist others: “It’s the knowledge that you are putting a smile on the face of someone who is struggling,” she says.

Shear Abilities a cut above standard salon For the people: Desiree McDonald in her Maitland salon Shear Abilities, which has been adapted to cater for those with disabilities. Picture: Penelope Green

Customised: Shear Abilities has three types of washing basins, including the one on the right that extends to allow those with mobility issues to lie flat as their hair is shampooed. Picture: Penelope Green

Bright: A feature wall in the salon’s play and sensory room, customised for children with autism or disabilities.

A cut above: Desiree McDonald in her Maitland salon Shear Abilities. Picture: Penelope Green

Welcoming: Maitland salon Shear Abiltiies, which caters for people with disabilities.

Fun and games: The children’s playroom at Shear Abilities salon is equipped with sensory items for children with autism or development disabilities.

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