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Models With Disabilities Take Center Stage On New York Fashion Week Catwalk

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The world of high fashion has long been dominated by an exclusive club of tall, thin models.

But as CBS2's Matt Kozar reported, a new group of women are catwalking past celebrities and fashionista elite at New York Fashion Week shows like the one inside Grand Central Terminal.

"Clearly, I'm not as tall as the other girls, but that just makes me special," said model Leslie Peoples.

Peoples suffered a spinal cord injury just two years ago.

"I am the role model of so many other girls who have disabilities to let them know you can be whoever you want to be, paralyzed or not," said Peoples.

The models with disabilities say their very presence at the show is a reflection of how American society is changing, Kozar reported.

Model Rebekah Marine, of New Jersey, was born without a right forearm.

"All the individual fingers move, so I can grasp specific things. And the nice thing about the Island Quantum is that it has gesture control motion sensors, so I can change the grips just by moving my hands," said Marine. "It's gotten easier over the years. When I first started this four years ago, it was 'No, no no.'"

But that's changing, says Meg O'Connell, with consulting firm Global Disabilities Inclusion.

"People want to see people that look like them in advertising and marketing campaigns, and just like all other diverse groups, that should include people with disabilities," she said.

People like Madeline Stewart, an 18-year-old with Downs syndrome who stole the show. She wore designer Hendrik Vermeulen's clothes.

"There's different types of beauty and it doesn't matter from which side you look, you're always going to find something beautiful," Vermeulen said.

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