A teen with cerebral palsy asked Nike for more accessible shoes—and they keep on delivering

In 2012, Matthew Walzer wrote a letter to Nike with a request.

"I was born two months premature on October 19, 1995," the letter began. "I weighed only two pounds fourteen ounces, and because my lungs were fully not developed, my brain did not receive enough oxygen. As a result, I have a brain injury that caused me to have Cerebral Palsy. Fortunately, I am only affected physically, as others can be affected mentally, physically or both."

Walzer explained that doctors had told his parents he would never walk and that if he ever talked, he'd have a lisp. Both of those diagnoses turned out to be false. "I walk somewhat independently around my home and use crutches when I'm out or at school," he wrote. He's never had a problem with his speech. He said he wanted to go to college to become a journalist, and loved writing sports columns.

"Out of all the challenges I have overcome in my life," he continued, "there is one that I am still trying to master, tying my shoes. Cerebral palsy stiffens the muscles in the body. As a result I have flexibility in only one of my hands which makes it impossible for me to tie my shoes.


"My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day. I've worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe, because I need ankle support to walk...At 16 years old, I am able to completely dress myself, but my parents still have to tie my shoes. As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating and, at times, embarrassing."

Walzer said he wasn't making a business proposal, but bringing a need to Nike's attention.

"If Nike would design and produce basketball and running shoes with moderate support and some kind of closure system that could be used by everyone, Nike could create a shoe line that attracts people that face the same physical challenges I did and still do, yet it could still be possible for anyone to wear them," he wrote. "I am always searching the web for any type of shoe brand that makes athletic shoes that provide good support, are self-lacing and are made for everyday wear or for playing sports. It is disappointing that no athletic brand has taken the creative initiative to design and produce athletic shoes in this category."

Nike took Walzer's words to heart.

#NikeLetter lands teen awesome shoe deal! www.youtube.com


The letter made its way to Tobie Hatfield, a shoe designer at Nike who had been designing shoes for Special Olympics athletes and Paralympians with similar shoe needs. Hatfield reached out to Walzer and the two worked together to design a shoe that would work for him.

Walzer was blown away. He said his letter had been a "Hail Mary" attempt to find a shoe that would work for him, and he expected maybe a polite response letter, not a personal design partnership.

For several years, Hatfield would send Walzer designs to try and he would give his feedback. Ultimately, Nike developed a whole line of shoes that are quick and easy to get into. The FlyEase line makes athletic shoes accessible for a wider range of people—and they keep on making even better designs.

The new Nike GO FlyEase is the latest design—a completely hands-free shoe that's even easier to get into and out of. The Nike FlyEase website describes how it works:

"Behind the shoe's smooth motion is a bi-stable hinge that enables the shoe to be secure in fully open and fully closed states.

This duality allows another signature detail: the Nike GO FlyEase tensioner. The tensioner's unique flexibility super-charges an action many might take for granted (kicking-off a shoe) and completely reimagines this movement as basis for accessible and empowering design."

If that's confusing, here's a visual demonstration and explanation for how the design came about:

Nike Go FlyEase | Behind the Design | Nike www.youtube.com

The Nike GO FlyEase will initially be available by invitation-only on February 15 and will become more broadly available later this year. We're looking at a price of $120.

Pretty darn cool, Nike. This is what innovation should be used for—to make life better for everyone, no matter how people themselves are designed.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

via Pixabay

Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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