NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Matthew Walzer, who at age 16 wrote a letter to Nike back again in 2012 that aided encourage the brand’s new accessible shoe line.



MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And ultimately, Nike unveiled a new sneaker style previous week, but these are not named for some celebrity or even up-and-coming athlete. No, these are referred to as the Go FlyEase. And they are the company’s 1st palms-no cost sneaker. That indicates no laces to tie, no Velcro to strap, no zippers necessary. It truly is the newest model of a Nike line manufactured with accessibility in mind, so people dwelling with disabilities or who just have difficulty tying and untying shoes can also have a interesting, supportive sneaker for every day wear.

And that line exists in element due to the fact of Matthew Walzer. He is living with cerebral palsy, and that affects some of his motor skills. Again in 2012, when he was just 16, Walzer wrote a letter to the corporation inquiring them to make footwear that he and many others like him could put on. Walzer collaborated on the early types of FlyEase, and he is with us now to inform us much more. Hi.

MATTHEW WALZER: Hello there, Michel. How are you?

MARTIN: I am great. Very well, congratulations, sir. It truly is not every working day I get to meet the inspiration for a Nike shoe, so let me just drink it in for a minute here (laughter). So we’ll get to the design and style in a minute. But I was just questioning if you could take us back to 2012, when you initially wrote that letter. I necessarily mean, would you intellect just reading a little bit for me? I notably liked the few sentences that commenced with, out of all the problems I have overcome in my daily life.

WALZER: Absolutely sure. (Reading) Out of all the difficulties I have conquer in my life, there is certainly just one that I’m nonetheless making an attempt to grasp – tying my shoes. Cerebral palsy stiffens the muscular tissues in the physique. As a final result, I have flexibility in only one of my arms, which would make it impossible for me to tie my footwear. My dream is to go to the higher education of my alternative without having to fret about another person coming to tie my sneakers just about every working day.

MARTIN: And you go on to describe, you know, that you might be a excellent scholar, that you have most mobility, that – you know, you – certainly your speech is not impaired. You can do all the matters. But, hey, you know, you are imagining about heading to university and not remaining in a position to tie your sneakers. What gave you the strategy to generate the letter? Did you feel that they would see it, that the Nike individuals would see it?

WALZER: You know, I want to choose you back again a little bit, if I can, to the starting of my lifetime. I was born two months untimely and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, CP, at start. And I had conquer a lot to even get to the position to wherever I could feasibly know in the back of my mind that I could go absent to college and that the only issue that was halting me at the time was, you know, not being ready to tie my sneakers.

I have total dexterity in my left hand and really restricted in my ideal. At the time, there was certainly nothing out there like there is now with the several options of FlyEase. And I did not want to have to fear about who was coming to set on my footwear each individual working day. And so I wrote this letter not only for myself, but also for the millions of other disabled persons out there that are unable to put on their shoes for a single reason or one more. And I actually wasn’t anticipating Nike to reply. I signify, it is challenging to – as a 16-12 months-previous to have that as my expectation. But I knew I experienced to make my voice listened to and permit Nike know that there is a want out there for a product like this.

MARTIN: So say extra about why you wanted an athletic shoe mainly because, you know, aspect of inclusivity, definitely is seeking to take part in things that everyone else can take part in. So you have every single appropriate to want, you know, a interesting shoe, you know, like everybody else, and not automatically to put on, you know, what my young children would call instructor footwear.

WALZER: (Laughter).

MARTIN: But is there one more purpose you failed to just want to be minimal to slip-ons or sort of penny loafers or anything like that?

WALZER: Positive. So with CP and, you know, a variety of bodily disabilities, you will need a supportive shoe to support with walking. And, you know, there are slip-ons and sandals, but those will not provide the support that another person like myself with cerebral palsy needs. And at the similar time, you want anything that seems just as great as it capabilities. And so which is why I, with out problem, desired a basketball and a running shoe with a closure process that can be employed by all people.

MARTIN: So speak a very little bit about – like, when you initial noticed them, do you try to remember what you imagined?

WALZER: You are conversing about the FlyEase Go?

MARTIN: The new ones, yeah, when they unveiled the very first fingers-totally free just a few days in the past.

WALZER: Yeah. I saw them on Monday on social media. And when I observed the video clip of how they functionality, it really is – you know, it truly is absolutely extraordinary. They have that kickstand system in which the shoe form of does all the do the job for you once you begin to set your foot into it. And it is terrific for persons that have small to no dexterity in their palms or have no palms at all for a single reason or a further.

When Nike’s building a shoe like this, it will not mean that all people are unable to not don them, suitable? You could put on them. I could have on them. It isn’t going to subject. And the overall principle of universal style and design as a entire requirements to be even more explored not just in the shoe business and in the manner marketplace, but throughout all sectors. I am talking transportation. I signify, when a man or woman with a incapacity goes and buys a auto – ideal? – they have to go and select out that car off the showroom and then go consider it out to a third party and get it modified. We can not go in and do the job with Toyota or Ford and say, you know, I want the disability, you know, deal, per se, like you get the comfort deal on a vehicle. And so we could buy a automobile in April and get it in October – since which is what took place to me.

You know, you can find so a lot of disabled motorists on the street as you will find ever been. Like, why is it so tricky to get a car or truck? You know, straightforward for all is simple for everybody. And anything as basic as, you know, opening the baggage that cereal comes in, you know, inside the box and how hard it can be for a person like myself with restricted dexterity to get that bag open up occasionally. It is really, like, why isn’t this just less complicated? Because I’m confident if it was, an individual devoid of a incapacity would take pleasure in that just as considerably.

MARTIN: So can I go back and check with you – you know, you wrote this letter. You were considering ahead to college or university. You certainly went, and (laughter) you did seriously effectively. How did it go for you? I signify, did you ever get sneakers in time to – I mean, was there a layout out there that allowed you to do what you needed to do, which is, you know, take treatment of yourself?

WALZER: Sure. I mean, the prototype section variety of even goes again to when I was in substantial university. So in superior school and then the first year and a half of college or university, I wore, you know, Nike prototypes to school and to class every single day. And so, yeah, there was a design in time. And the college or university in alone, on a personal degree, was a good deal of developing up emotionally more quickly than I was ready for but also generating certain I advocated for factors that I desired at my university to be equipped to functionality in a risk-free and inclusive method, no matter whether it was my – issues with my dorm or transportation.

And so it just goes back to advocating. And my goals for the potential are to operate throughout distinct firms, businesses and sectors to address so lots of unique challenges that are out there that, to be quite genuine, are staying just ignored or not tackled.

MARTIN: Perfectly, before we let you go, Matthew, you know I have to check with, are the sneakers neat?

WALZER: You know, I haven’t tried out them still. I really don’t have a pair however. So from what I’ve witnessed on the web, they are. They do glimpse exceptionally amazing. And I’m pretty, very psyched to try them.

MARTIN: That was Matthew Walzer. His letter to Nike again in 2012 helped inspire the firm’s FlyEase line of sneakers. The newest arms-free design will be readily available later this 12 months.

Matthew Walzer, thank you so considerably for currently being with us. Hold us posted – will you? – on every thing you are up to.

WALZER: I will, Michel. Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF Tune, “NIKES ON MY Feet”)

MIKE MILLER: (Singing) Nikes on my ft keep my cypher total. Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nikes. Nikes on my toes continue to keep my cypher entire. Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nikes. Nike, Nike, Nikes. Nike, Nike, Nikes. Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nike, Nikes. Nikes on my feet…

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