A disability is any physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. Latinos count for almost 20% of the disabilities in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census. With that in mind, one of the things people with disabilities suffer with is tying their shoes. Matthew Walzer has cerebral palsy and isn’t able to put on his shoes by himself, so he took matters into his own hands and reached out to Nike.
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One Walzer’s biggest worries when he was 16 years old and the reason he decided to reach out to Nike was because he was going to go to college pretty soon and he needed a pair of shoes he could put on himself. He wrote a letter to Nike and it went viral, eventually landing in the hands of Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker.
One of Nike’s slogans is: If you have a body, you’re an athlete. There are so many people who just like Walzer have a disability and they don’t have many options when it comes to comfortable shoes. This hit Nike close to home because Jeff Johnson, was the first Nike employee who suffered a stroke in 2004 and he had asked Tobie Hatfield, Nike’s Senior Director of Athlete Innovation to create a shoe for him. It got them thinking about the millions of people that this shoe could help and it was something they had to start working on immediately.
Nike worked with both Johnson and Walzer for about three years to develop a great shoe that fit their needs. This is how Hatfield designed the new Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease, which is a sneaker that you can easily slip on, close and open the shoe with one hand, thanks to a long wraparound zipper system. The newly designed shoe was designed after the more classic LeBron James basketball shoe.
Walzer could not be happier. He had the opportunity to meet LeBron James and his prayers answered with this pair of shoes. At only 19 years old, he can proudly say that he helped design a shoe that will help so many people with disabilities. The Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease shoe is officially in the stores. It’s a true testament that if you dream it and act on it, you can make it happen. Check out his story: