Advice 28 Jun
How I know that Billy, and adaptive footwear, are changing lives
By Grace Stratton
Every year before school started, my parents and I dreaded the trip to the shoe store. To find school shoes that could go over my orthotics every year was a battle, and the shoes we could find were nowhere near the kind you would expect of a primary school student. Often two sizes too big to fit over my splints, clunky, and shoes I couldn't get off or on myself.
After a while, as a teenager, I avoided going into any shoe stores because the majority of the time, I couldn't wear any of the lovely shoes on display. As I've gotten older, things have gotten a bit easier, but I often think about my school days and the students who are disabled going through the same thing.
Enter - Billy Footwear.
Earlier this year, at a photoshoot we put together for EveryHuman, we saw first hand the difference Billy Footwear made to disabled people and their families. The footwear, which comes in a variety of colours and high or low top styles, features a zip around the edge. There's no battling with laces or struggling to force the shoe into your orthotics because they open up for your foot to be placed in.
Alt text: Man & woman in front of red & white background, the man is seated on a podium highlighting the red Classic Hi-Top sneaker. Picture: EveryHuman Campaign (@everyhumanau)
One of the highlights of the day for me was looking around on the day of that shoot and seeing every person amazed and enamoured with the way Billy Footwear worked and how it looked. Olya, a pre-teen wheelchair user, could have shoes that functioned for her orthotics, that also had bright rainbow patterns. She didn't have to choose between function and aesthetics. Cameron, a Paralympian, and Father, who is a quadruple amputee, could easily get the Billy high-tops on, making a small task in his day that much easier.
The way everybody smiled and shared their joy over Billy's designs and the freedom, independence, and ability the shoes gave was a highlight for my day because I knew that the dread I felt as a schoolchild finding shoes wasn't something that would continue for others.
Alt text: Author Grace wearing black and gentile smile in her wheelchair at an open-air café. Picture: Grace Stratton (Credit: Hannah Davey)
Billy Footwear and the accessible footwear options that EveryHuman stocks all exemplify that barriers are being overcome so that young people and, in fact, all disabled people can have the same access to self-expression through clothing as everybody else.
Moreover, I knew the difference that Billy would make to the morning rush. I used to wake up earlier to get ready for school because I needed extra time for help to get dressed and get my shoes on. The accessible options like Billy would make so many people's mornings more frictionless, so they could focus on getting ready for the day in front of them, rather than worrying about any difficulties getting dressed.
Alt text: Emily sitting on a park bench wearing Billy Footwears Classic Hi-Top sneaker in leopard print. Picture: Emily Prior in Billy Footwear's Classic High-Top Sneaker (Credit: Emily Prior)
If you're currently dealing with the shoe-finding-struggle, I've witnessed first hand the impact and ease of Billy Footwear, and I think they are something every disabled person needs. Especially for young children, the confidence of doing up your own shoes, having shoes that look like something you would wear, cannot be understated.
I'll always look back on the day of that shoot as a highlight because it showed how the growth of adaptive fashion, and brands like Billy, are changing people's lives and breaking down some of the barriers experienced by so many in the past. The fact these barriers are being mitigated is thrilling.
Alt text: An array of Billy Footwears in sitting on their side displaying the range of colours available on a beige & white background. Picture: EveryHuman campaign (@everyhumanau)
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