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Nike Zoom Flyease Making a Mark for Disability Independence

When we heard about the release the new Nike Zoom Soldier 8 Flyease, we we’re beyond excited. One small movement in a very big hurdle for accessible living.

It took one teenager to get Nike’s attention and motivate the company to make a change. Matthew Walzer, who was born with cerebral palsy, wrote a #NikeLetter expressing his frustrations with putting on a sneaker.

“My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day. I’ve worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe, because I need ankle support to walk. At 16 years old, I am able to completely dress myself, but my parents still have to tie my shoes. As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating and, at times, embarrassing.”

Since then, the company has revolutionized shoe technology with the new LeBron Flyease. The already popular basketball sneaker has new flair with a special wrap-around zipper system, thus assisting thousands of people who need help tying their shoes. The shoe still provides the stability expected of a typical high-top shoe but now wearers can literally peel back the heel of the shoe with ease and slip their foot in (and no laces to tie). – something that can drastically improve a person’s quality of life.

Nike actually began development of the new zipper system seven years ago when an employee, Jeff Johnson suffered a stroke and limited his right side mobility. Walzer’s letter inspired the Nike innovation team to pursue the challenge again: A shoe specialized to the disabled public.  The shoe was finally released on July 16th 2015 to.  Tobie Hatfield, the company’s senior director of athlete innovation lead the project. Hatfield says. “It’s not going to be perfect, but we will learn a lot from it and continue to make improvements.”

Regardless of the outcome, the new shoe will aid in a new level of independence for people with disabilities.

Uber Black Car Taxi

Uber and Accessibility: Whats next for the disability community?

Uber and Accessibility: Whats next for the disability community?

Uber has recently been under fire for its services’ lack of user-friendliness after a collection of wheelchair users were poorly treated by the taxi service. With the ADA reaching its 25th anniversary this year, most trades have gotten up to speed with accessibility. However, the transportation industry has been one of the slowest to convert.  Under the ADA, all transportation providers are required to accommodate wheelchairs if the equipment can be stowed in the vehicle. Drivers must also accommodate passengers with service animals such as guide dogs.

Uber is currently in settlement negotiations in a suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind in California last September. It mentions 40 cases in which UberX drivers refused to offer their services to people with animal aides. Unfortunately, this is just one of many reported issues.

These recent law suits have gone after Uber’s inability to oblige all disabilities despite its company policy “to accommodate all users.” The company rebuttled by claiming that because it’s a technology company, the ADA transport rules don’t apply. The ride sharing applications like Uber, Lyft, and SideCar consider themselves Transportation Network Companies, which places them in a gray area when defining the federal regulations they must abide by.

Despite the recent bad press, Uber has been actively working towards accessibility for all. The company has recently developed UberWAV and UberASSIST. But these programs are still in their very early stages.  UberWav partners with wheelchair accessible city taxis to be available upon request, but users don’t get that “nice black car” experience. UberAssist was developed to request specially trained drivers for seniors and disabilities. However, Uber Assist excludes wheelchairs and animal aides. These programs are new developments across the nation and are currently offered in five US cities including San Francisco and New York. It’s still to be determined whether it will spread to other cities.

According to the Daily News New York – Uber NYC has about 20,000 cars in their fleet and none are considered wheelchair accessible. With the company valued at over $14 billion, it’s a worthwhile investment to purchase some wheelchair accessible vehicles. According to the New York Daily News, ,James Weisman, president of United Spinal Association, said Uber has the money and capacity to get accessible cars on the road. He proposed that Uber give drivers financial incentives to buy wheelchair-accessible cars.

Uber Disability Policy

For now, Uber offers voluntary training where drivers are told they must serve customers with wheelchairs or guide dogs. Uber’s Code of Conduct notes that violating laws pertaining to transporting disabled riders “constitutes a breach of the parties’ licensing agreement.” An Uber spokesperson says that reported discrimination typically ends with a driver’s suspension or deactivation.

Until the courts settle whether Uber is a software company or transportation company, the disability community will just have to be patient and try to work with Uber. For now, it seems the company has a long way to go in order to make its transportation network fully accessible. We at Push Nation Fest hope for the best resolution.