Earlier we told you about Steven Kaufman, the father that designed easy-on/easy-off shoes after his son was diagnosed with scoliosis. Kaufman deserves all the credit in the world because he undertook the project as a lone entrepreneur. But we're also thrilled to see that the corporate giant of the footwear world, none other than Nike, has also turned their resources towards providing sneakers for the differently-abled.
Nike's awareness on this front came when Jeff Johnson, Nike's first-ever employee and a running pioneer, suffered a stroke. With no functionality in the right half of his body, sneakers were impossible for him to easily don. Nike CEO Mark Parker, upon learning of this, asked Senior Director of Athlete Innovation Tobie Hatfield to create a shoe to fit Johnson's needs. Hatfield's resultant design featured a sort of hinged door at the rear that made donning and doffing much easier, as you'll see in the video below.
Johnson reportedly urged Parker and Hatfield to continue developing footwear along these lines. Enter Matthew Walzer, a 16-year-old Floridian with cerebral palsy. After Walzer posted a social media query to Parker detailing his struggles with footwear, Parker and Hatfield swung back into action, refining the shoe's mechanism into the FLYEASE:
Circulate this story if you can. We all know that Nike is a corporation, and corporations exist to make profits by selling to the mass market. Differently-abled individuals like Walzer and Johnson are not the mass market, statistically speaking, and there is bound to be little profit in targeting this group. But if the brand can achieve the all-important positive publicity for creating shoes like these, they may be motivated to continue—and more kids like Walzer will benefit.
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