I was born two months premature on October 19, 1995 and diagnosed with cerebral palsy spastic diplegia at around a year old. My CP affects my walking, balance, vision, and fine motor skills. I have overcome many challenges in my life. Still, there is one that I was never able to overcome, tying my shoes. CP stiffens and tightens the muscles in the body, resulting in a lack of dexterity in my right hand, making shoe tying impossible. As I got older, this became more and more frustrating. There was such a need for accessible footwear, but no one had spoken up. I knew I had to speak up for not only myself but for so many others with physical challenges.
In the summer of 2012, with college just around the corner and the goal of going away to school, I wrote an open letter to Nike asking for shoes that everyone could put on, regardless of physical ability. The letter went viral (#NikeLetter) and what resulted was a three-year collaboration with Nike from 2012 to 2015. I would test and give feedback and insights on rear entry prototypes that Nike would send me and give my input on materials, fit, support, cushioning, and more. What resulted was the first FlyEase shoe that was released in 2015, the Lebron Zoom Soldier 8 FlyEase. The independence that these shoes gave me allowed me to achieve my dream of going away to college. I graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2018 with a Business Management degree with a concentration in sports.
Writing that letter to Nike as a 16-year-old boy, and now looking back on it years later as a 25-year-old man, I am proud to be a voice for people with disabilities. Through my letter and collaboration with Nike, I am so proud that people’s lives have been forever changed, and now so many have freedom and independence that previously did not exist. I want people to view my letter as a source of hope and inspiration that anyone can make an impact. I have been fortunate enough to share my journey and continued desire to make the world more inclusive via various national multimedia platforms such as “The Drew Barrymore Show,” NPR, Spotify, and Yahoo. I have also been recognized for my advocacy and spoken at events for United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles, ARC, Runway of Dreams, Integrated Dreams Foundation, and CP Soccer. In 2016, I had the honor to speak on universal design and disability advocacy at the Obama White House for their Design For All Showcase. In late 2020, I spoke at a United Nations virtual summit on the role of advancing sport for development and peace. My goal is to continue advocating for change for people with disabilities across various sectors, including education, technology, transportation, and government.