Yesterday I ordered a pair of your Flyease shoes. Four years ago, when you launched these shoes you marketed them as “the shoe for people with disabilities.” I was ecstatic. Finally, a shoe that I can wear. One that I can slip into and do up without spasms or assistance. I don’t have to worry about my laces coming undone without being able to do them up. Plus, they don’t look like they were designed for 90-year-olds! What made them even better was that they were designed with someone who has Cerebral Palsy. For once, our opinions were valued and taken seriously. Four years ago, I was ecstatic not just for the shoe but also for the win in the disabled community. When they were first released, the shoes had their problems. They only existed as a male shoe from size seven and they were only available in America. For me, I didn’t mind that as much. I knew it would take a while to get everything sorted…so I waited.
Cut to now, years later, these shoes are in my size, country and they don’t cost the earth, amazing! With excitement seeping through my fingers I went on the website to look at my options. But doing that made my heart drop into my stomach. Every different version of this shoe had models showing how to use them. None of these people was disabled. The whole point of these shoes is to supposedly help those who struggle to use their feet and have fine motor control issues. Yet, not a single model seemed to have any of these issues. The videos and photos show no mobility aids, no tremors, no difficulty jumping or standing, or running on the spot like they did. So, these shoes “for people with disabilities” aren’t really for us, are they? If they are, why must we be hidden behind the able-bodied people? I know people think that the abled models are because you want to market this shoe to the able-bodied too. However, there’s a huge flaw in that. Having disabled models don’t take away from that. Isn’t part of modelling meant to be representation? Or at least an attempt at that? We all know that there are many problems with the model industry and representation. However, this shoe had the disabled community in mind from the start. Doesn’t that mean that some of us should be involved in the marketing of this? I’m not saying that all the models should be disabled, but some should be, in fact, some need to be!
The truth is, disabled people are everywhere. We are in every country and culture, we matter. Not to mention that a lot of us have had to do some form of vigorous exercise every day since we became disabled. We get fitness. By replacing us with abled people to sell something designed for the disabled is heartbreaking. It’s telling us to hide, to be ashamed, that we are not as good as the able-bodied.
On top of all that, these shoes are available for children. As someone who grew up with a disability, I felt alone. I looked around and saw no one like me. Not on television, not in magazines, or books, and definitely not in models. I felt as if I was the only one. So, I thought I was weird and wrong, broken and ugly. That is because we have to live quietly, in the shadows. Please, don’t keep us hidden. Please don’t add to the culture that excludes us. Respect us, appreciate us, celebrate us. Be the arrow of change and show the world that there’s nothing wrong with being disabled. Work with us to show everyone what we are capable of. Let’s give future generations something that shows them they aren’t alone. That they matter, they have a future and they are the future.
Thank you for creating the shoe, it’s an amazing achievement. Thank you for that movement in the disabled community. But I beg of you, please, continue it. Please work for even more advancements in this world for the disabled. Be one of a kind. Start a fire with us that shakes the foundations of the world’s beliefs. Please believe in people with disabilities.
I hope to see a change soon.
From a disabled consumer, who looks hopefully into the future. Bethany