Nearly three years after Matthew Walzer, who has cerebral palsy, wrote a viral letter asking Nike for more accessible footwear, the company has announced a new sneaker with people with disabilities in mind.
The Lebron Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease basketball sneaker employs Nike’s new Flyeasetechnology; instead of laces, which prove extremely difficult for people with movement disorders, stroke victims and amputees, the sneaker has a zipper that extends around the back of the shoe, allowing its wearer to “peel” it open with one hand and slide his foot in easily.
Designed by Nike’s senior director of athlete innovation, Tobie Hatfield, the footwear system aims to “help athletes of all abilities and ages perform better.” Hatfield worked with Walzer to develop the cutting-edge sneakers.
“It feels great to have this shoe made for everyone and to be the catalyst for such a great project,” Walzer, 19, told Mashable. “Writing my letter three years ago, I honestly wasn’t expecting much at all, maybe a polite letter from customer service …
I couldn’t be more proud that people will be able to have this long, overdue independence.
I couldn’t be more proud that people will be able to have this long, overdue independence.”
While Flyease has actually been seven years in the making, prompted by Nike CEO Mark Parker’s desire to help the company’s first employee, Jeff Johnson, after he had a stroke, it was Walzer’s 2012 letter that inspired Hatfield to move forward with the idea.
Walzer wrote that he was born two months premature, with underdeveloped lungs, and after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy, doctors said he’d never be able to walk. But with the aid of crutches and Nike basketball sneakers, which provided enough ankle support, he could.
After a year-long closure, the California theme park is finally ready to welcome guests back to Mickey’s Toontown.
Disneyland is finally ready to welcome guests to a completely reimagined version of its beloved Toontown–one that makes the magic accessible to every guest.
The theme park initially closed Mickey’s Toontown in early 2022, explaining that the company had big plans to transform the area home to iconic attractions, like Mickey and Minnie’s houses, into a more inclusive experience that prioritizes accessibility.
Now, the company is ready for visitors to enjoy the newly transformed land, unveiling its redesign and officially reopening Mickey’s Toontown on Sunday, Mar. 19.
“We want every child to know that when they came to this land that this land was designed for them,” Jeffrey Shaver-Moskowitz, executive portfolio producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, told CNBC. “That they were seen, and that this place was welcoming to them.”
“We know a day at Disneyland can be hectic and chaotic, running from one attraction to another, one reservation to the next,” he said. “We wanted Toontown to not only be exciting, but also decompressing and relaxing and welcoming.”
Mickey’s Toontown, which first opened at the Anaheim, California park in 1993, is now home to quiet areas, shaded spots, and more inclusive play areas for visitors–including a completely wheelchair-accessible land, softer paint colors and a remixed soundtrack of soothing tunes that are played throughout the land to make Toontown more approachable and appealing to those that may have more sensitive auditory and visual processing.
“We really wanted to take a look at Toontown, knowing how important it was for so many of our guests for many generations growing up and the so many memories here that are connected to the land, and make sure we don’t lose any of that,” Shaver-Moskowitz explained. “But, bring a lot of new magic.”
After opening on Thursday, March 9 to rave reviews, DARK DISABLED STORIES has extended performances at The Public Theater through Sunday, April 2 in New York.
Writer and performer Ryan J. Haddad’s newest autobiographical play is a series of unforgiving vignettes about the strangers he encounters while navigating a city (and a world) not built for his walker and cerebral palsy.
A New York Times Critics’ Pick, “Ryan J. Haddad’s gracefully layered play about the lives of disabled people blasts away condescension and replaces it with comprehension” (Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times). Directed by Jordan Fein, the 75-minute play features Haddad, who uses a walker; Dickie Hearts, a Deaf performer; and Alejandra Ospina, a wheelchair user. Open Captions, Audio Descriptions, and American Sign Language are integrated throughout the play.
Accessible seats are available for $30 using the promo code AccessDDS on the show’s website. “This play proves that disability need not be seen as something sad, tragic, or “dark.” It can be funny, messy, sexy, and complicated” (Christian Lewis, TheaterMania).
During a stream on September 11, Asmongold shared a candid moment with viewers where he discussed his struggles with mental health and suicidal thoughts.
Asmongold is one of the most popular MMO steamers on Twitch, but recently opened up to fans about the struggles he’s had with mental health as a result.
When a user donated and asked if he’d ever “felt like Reckful (who took his own life in 2020) unironically.” Asmon gave an honest answer that initially concerned fans before the streamer provided reassurance.
“‘Do you ever feel how Reckful felt unironically?’ I probably shouldn’t say this, I’ve wanted to kill myself many times, yeah, absolutely,” Asmon revealed during the stream.
If you check out the chat while Asmon was saying this, there is an outpouring of love and support for the streamer, but at the same time worry for the concerning comments from viewers.
“What a f***ing segway,” Asmon added. “Yeah, many many times, I’m just too much of a p****y to do it, don’t worry about it I’ll be fine, I’m not going anywhere.”
His chat was, as we said, more than supportive after the streamer made these comments, but they still caused plenty of concern among fans. However, he said it was something he’d been wanting to talk about for awhile, and would be making changes to his stream in the future.
“I’d like to take down some of the super high energy stuff I do, and just try to have a little bit more of, just me,” Asmon said. “Not a bunch of crazy bulls***t, not a bunch of weird showmanship, just me. Just me streaming us having fun together, and relaxing.”
Mental health has become a huge issue not just on Twitch, but with internet personalities and creators as a whole. Asmon certainly isn’t alone in his struggles, either, so if you happen to tune into him in the near future, be sure to show the WoW OG some love.
John Donahoe is the CEO of Nike. When I was 28 years old, I got some advice that changed my life. It was 1988, and I was a consultant at Bain. These were intense years-long hours, little sleep, lots of travel, constant work, and trying to balance family life with a spouse and two young children. I was glad to be learning as much as I was, but I also remember feeling like I was barely staying afloat.
One day, during a training program for young consultants, a speaker came to impart some wisdom. I was half-listening at first, my mind drifting back to the office, when he asked us a question: How many of us wanted to be world-class at what we did?
Naturally we all raised our hands. The speaker laughed and said, well, that’s the intelligence test.
Then he explained. He said he spent years studying world-class athletes. (I’d always looked up to athletes and my ears perked up at this.) And he said that these top athletes all shared a unique trait: They take care of themselves.
He said for every hour they’re on the playing field, they train for 20 hours. They work out, they sleep well, they eat right. They look inward to learn their own strengths and weaknesses. And importantly, they are not afraid to ask for help — in fact, they view asking for help as a sign of strength.
“Michael Jordan has a bench coach, a personal trainer, a chef, and a mental coach. He wants to get help so he can get better,” the speaker told us. “But you businesspeople don’t take care of yourselves. You think not getting sleep is a badge of honor! And you want to be world-class? You think asking for help is a sign of weakness, not strength. I don’t get it!”
‘I was sacrificing my mental health at the altar of my work’
I was rocked back. My eyes were opened. He was right. Like so many others, I was sacrificing my mental health at the altar of my work, simply because I thought that was the only way.
As my career continued, I took his advice to heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some high-impact, challenging jobs over the years. And despite these leadership positions, I have always tried to keep perspective by taking care of myself and by asking for help.
Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! News.
“You have to work hard on being your true self, and believe in the brands you promote.”
Words of advice from 32-year-old disabled influencer Tess Daly from Sheffield, who uses her 200,000-plus followers on Instagram to promote her beauty tutorials and advertise beauty brands.
Electric wheelchair-user Tess, who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), has worked on social marketing campaigns for the likes of Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing, as well as various make-up brands.
She still cringes at the term “social influencer”, but says that she wishes there were more people like her when she was growing up.
“So many people with disabilities have told me that I’ve given them the confidence, not only to embrace their disability, but to also pursue their own love of make-up,” she says.
Tess is one of a growing number of disabled influencers who work with Martyn Sibley and his digital marketing agency Purple Goat, which he launched at the beginning of lockdown last year.
Martyn, who was also born with SMA, started the agency as part of his mission for a fully inclusive world.
“I believe by helping big businesses make more profit through including disabled consumers via disabled influencers, we’ll get true inclusion quicker,” he says. “With this model it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Purple Goat has worked with more than 75 influencers so far, but Martyn is keen to point out that they’re not a talent agency with people on their books.
“We work for the client and find the right influencer for each campaign,” he explains.
Taking the plunge
Around 14.1 million people in the UK have some sort of disability, and with those sorts of numbers comes serious spending power. According to disability charity Scope, the so-called “purple pound” is worth approximately £273bn every year.
But while disabled people make up around 22% of the UK population, this is not reflected when it comes to advertising. Up-to-date figures are hard to come by, but research from Lloyds Banking Group in 2016 showed that disabled people featured in just 0.06% of advertising.
This was the main driver behind Martyn launching Purple Goat. He thinks the world of marketing and advertising is now becoming a lot more socially aware, and is ready for disruption.
“I believe it’s partly the way public opinion has improved around diversity and inclusion,” he says. “Brands have been fearful of getting disability wrong, but they’re now fearful of being called out for doing nothing.”
Tess has certainly seen a pick-up in social media work. Up until last year, it was something she did as a sideline, but towards the end of 2020 she took the plunge to become a full-time influencer, and now works with an agent to manage her workload.
It wasn’t as easy as people may think, she says. “You can’t just wake up one day and decide you want to become a social influencer.”
‘Demanding to be seen’
Last year London-based luxury shoe brand Kurt Geiger started working with Northern Irish amputee model and influencer Bernadette Hagans.
The company’s chief executive, Neil Clifford, thinks that the rise in disabled influencers is down to the public’s change of mood.
“The boom in social media has given a voice to those who have previously been under-represented in the public eye and they are, quite rightly, demanding to be seen and heard,” he says. “People expect businesses to utilize their influence to counter inequality and many brands are reacting to this need.”
Twenty-six-year-old Pippa Stacey from York works in the charity sector, and blogs about living with chronic illness. Pippa, who lives with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, has also worked with Purple Goat doing social media campaigns for brands such as Tesco.
“Influencer marketing is about so much more than just the hard sell. It’s about supporting a positive image of the brand and their values, of which inclusivity should be central in this day and age,” she says.
Inclusivity on the part of big brands shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise, something they feel compelled to do to avoid criticism, she says.
“Having an ongoing relationship with disabled influencers, and taking the time to understand their platform. and their audience can help brands construct the most effective campaigns in a socially conscious way.”
Hollywood plays a massive part in shaping our understanding of different groups and helps us gain insight into worlds and cultures we may never have been able to on our own. The movies and TV series that flood our screens are more than just entertainment; they’re education. But with great power and influence comes great responsibility as there’s always the danger of misrepresentation.
Over the years, Hollywood has faced backlash from several communities and social movements about the issue of misrepresentation and underrepresentation. Groups identifying with Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ, the MeToo Movement, and protests like the OscarsSoWhite campaign come to mind.
People with disabilities, moreover racialized groups with disabilities, should also be at the forefront of this conversation, but they aren’t. This is a huge problem, especially considering that about a billion people live with some form of disability. In the U.S., one in five people have a disability, and for adults specifically, the disability count is about 26 percent, according to the CDC—roughly one in four adults.
“It’s almost impossible not to find people living with disabilities in any of these communities that feel let down by the entertainment industry’s depiction of their reality,” he said. “The discussion about proper inclusion and authentic depictions of a disabled person’s circumstances can only bode well for these groups and the entire industry as a whole.”
Disability isn’t new to the entertainment industry
Hollywood and the wider entertainment industry have many popular figures who are on the disability spectrum. Michael J. Fox has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Jim Carrey has talked about having ADHD, and Billie Eilish was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome as a child, to mention a few.
Many of Hollywood’s big names have also brought awareness to various disabilities by talking about their condition, advocating for better understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities, or donating to their cause. The industry has also taken steps to shine a light on disabilities by making movies and TV productions focused on varying disabilities, or casting lead characters as people with disabilities.
The problem here is that the bigger picture still tells a story of underrepresentation and a lack of inclusion with only 3.5 percent of series regular characters being disabled in 2020, according to GLAAD. Another study found that this number was reasonably higher in 2018—12 per cent higher in fact—but that the majority of these characters were portrayed negatively.
There have been reports over the years of actors, writers, and other workers in entertainment losing their jobs or not being considered for a position due to disability-related issues. So while some of the silver screen’s most loved names play the roles of disabled characters and win awards and recognitions, the disabled community isn’t seeing any reasonable increase in inclusion and accessibility in the industry. In fact, about 95 per cent of characters with disabilities in Hollywood’s top shows are played by able-bodied actors, and during the 2019 Oscars, only two out of the 61 nominees and 27 winners that played disabled characters were actually disabled.
This gives credence to the concern of inauthentic portrayals of any given disability or disabled person. “It has never made sense to me that disabled characters in our shows and movies are played by people who have no disability.” Musab opines, “You can’t give what you don’t have, not optimally anyway. The way I see it, it’s like getting Cameron Diaz to play Harriet Tubman. No matter how pure her intentions and commitment to deliver on the role, she simply won’t be able to do it justice. It is an indictment of the abilities of disabled artists.”
The real focus is not only on the disability of the Hollywood spectrum but on the lack of inclusivity for racialized groups within the disabled community. The stories of their lives may have been voiced on several platforms but never from the eyes of the Hollywood industry. This is an important recognition for racialized groups within the disabled community, to not only be recognized but seen through a macro spectrum of representations.
Quaden Bayles, an indigenous Australian boy who won the support of celebrities and well-wishers around the globe after being bullied because of his disability, has landed a role in the new “Mad Max” movie.Oscar-winning director George Miller has cast the now 11-year-old in a small role in the movie “Furiosa,” a prequel to his 2015 post-apocalyptic blockbuster “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Miller revealed in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine, published Saturday, that he was moved to put Bayles on the big screen after watching the distressing video his mother shared of him in February 2020.
The Queensland boy, born with a type of dwarfism known as achondroplasia, is already scheduled to appear alongside Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton in Miller’s next film, “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” “It was good for us and it was good for him,” Miller told the Sydney Morning Herald. “And he did such a good job that he’s got a small role in Furiosa.”
In the 2020 viral video clip, Bayles is shown crying uncontrollably in the back of his mother’s car as he asks for a knife to kill himself.”This is what bullying does,” his mother, Yarraka Bayles, said in the video, livestreamed on Facebook to raise awareness of the impact of bullying. “Can you please educate your children, your families, your friends?”
In November 2023 Jonny will embark on a journey to the South Pole from the continental shelf of Antartica, a distance of over 900km. He is doing this alone and will become the first ever disabled person to solo the South Pole.
As part of the expedition, Jonny has put together a training timeline that starts in July 2022 across the South West Cost Path. The total distance of the coastal path is 630 miles and in total he will burn 5524 calories.
In 2014, Jonny had a brain bleed that left him paralysed from the neck down on his left side. Following extensive rehabilitation and discharge from the Army, he returned to the world of elite sport as a disabled athlete, competing for Great Britain in cross country skiing.
Jonny comments: “I’m ready to go and take on this challenge. First and foremost, I’m an athlete. My injury hasn’t changed this. It may cause me to rethink my approach, but intrinsically the challenge is the same- with the right attitude and hard work, anything is achievable.
“I’m delighted to be working together with Business Leader to have their media support.”
Business Leader is covering Jonny’s expedition and will be hosting a speaking event with him in the coming months.
Click here to read the full article on Business Leader.
James Caverly was working as a carpenter in Olney Theatre Center’s scene shop some seven years ago when he laid the foundation for an unconventional undertaking: a production of “The Music Man” featuring a blend of deaf and hearing actors.
At the time, the Gallaudet University alumnus was finding roles for deaf actors hard to come by. Having recently seen Deaf West’s 2015 production of “Spring Awakening” — performed on Broadway in American Sign Language and spoken English — Caverly thought the time was right for a D.C. theater to follow suit. So when Olney Artistic Director Jason Loewith encouraged staff to approach him with ideas for shows, Caverly spoke up.
“It’s like when Frankenstein’s monster came up to Dr. Frankenstein and said, ‘I need a wife,’ ” Caverly says during a recent video chat. “That was me with Jason Loewith saying, ‘Hey, I need a production.’ ” (With the exception of Loewith, all interviews for this story were conducted with the assistance of an ASL interpreter.)
The sales pitch worked: Loewith greenlighted a workshop to explore Caverly’s concept, then set the musical for the summer of 2021 before the coronavirus pandemic intervened. During the delay, Caverly’s profile spiked: He booked a recurring role on Steve Martin and Martin Short’s Hulu comedy “Only Murders in the Building,” earning widespread acclaim for a nearly silent episode focused on his morally complicated character.
Equipped with newfound cachet, Caverly has returned to Olney — this time, leaving his carpentry tools behind. Featuring deaf, hearing and hard of hearing actors, with Caverly starring as slippery con man Harold Hill, a bilingual production of “The Music Man” marches onto the theater’s main stage this week.
“What [Caverly] possesses is a presence and a charm and a charisma and a drive and a passion that is, in some way, Harold Hill,” Loewith says. “I mean, think about how he got this production to happen: He totally Harold Hilled me. But he’s a con man that I like.”
In fitting Hill fashion, Caverly won over his mark despite some initial skepticism. Although Loewith says his concerns were mostly focused on the logistics of staging what’s traditionally a sprawling show, he also recalled pressing Caverly on the idea’s artistic merits.
“I didn’t want to just do it as, ‘Here’s us being inclusive,’ ” Loewith says. “I wanted to be like, ‘What is a musical that needs this kind of storytelling?’ ”
That’s when Caverly filled in Loewith on the history of Martha’s Vineyard: In the 19th century, a genetic anomaly led to such a prominent deaf population — about 1 in 25 residents — that the island’s native sign language became ubiquitous, and deaf people were fully integrated into the community.
So what if River City, the backwater Iowa town where “The Music Man” unfolds, was like Martha’s Vineyard? Caverly, like many of his deaf peers, also learned to play an instrument in his youth — in his case, the guitar. Thus, the idea of the traveling salesman Hill swindling the locals into investing in a boys’ marching band, with the intent of skipping town before teaching them a note, held up as well.
“The beautiful thing about this story is that Harold Hill never really teaches the kids music,” Caverly says, “so he doesn’t really have to hear music and he doesn’t have to play these musical instruments.”
Click here to read the full article in The Washington Post.
When you think of futurism, you probably don’t think of the payroll company ADP—but that’s where Giselle Mota works as the company’s principal consultant on the “future of work.” Mota, who has given a Ted Talk(Opens in a new window) and has written(Opens in a new window) for Forbes, is committed to bringing more inclusion and access to the Web3 and metaverse spaces. She’s also been working on a side project called Unhidden, which will provide disabled people with accurate avatars, so they’ll have the option to remain themselves in the metaverse and across Web3.
To See and Be Seen
The goal of Unhidden is to encourage tech companies to be more inclusive, particularly of people with disabilities. The project has launched and already has a partnership with the Wanderland(Opens in a new window) app, which will feature Unhidden avatars through its mixed-reality(Opens in a new window) platform at the VivaTech Conference in Paris and the DisabilityIN Conference in Dallas. The first 12 avatars will come out this summer with Mota, Dr. Tiffany Jana, Brandon Farstein, Tiffany Yu, and other global figures representing disability inclusion.
The above array of individuals is known as the NFTY Collective(Opens in a new window). Its members hail from countries including America, the UK, and Australia, and the collective represents a spectrum of disabilities, ranging from the invisible type, such as bipolar and other forms of neurodiversity, to the more visible, including hypoplasia and dwarfism.
Hypoplasia causes the underdevelopment of an organ or tissue. For Isaac Harvey, the disease manifested by leaving him with no arms and short legs. Harvey uses a wheelchair and is the president of Wheels for Wheelchairs, along with being a video editor. He got involved with Unhidden after being approached by its co-creator along with Mota, Victoria Jenkins, who is an inclusive fashion designer.