Why I Created Fashionable Shoes for People With and Without Disabilities

Hello, I’m Billy Price, co-founder of BILLY Footwear.

We create shoes that incorporate Universal Design in a Fashion Forward kind of way, meaning they work for and appeal to everyone. Utilizing zipper technology, we have revolutionized how footwear is put on and taken off.

How, you ask? Well, by running a zipper along the outside and around the toe of each shoe, the upper is able to open and fold over completely, thus you, the wearer, can place your foot onto the shoe footbed unobstructed. Then with a tug on the zipper-pull, the shoe closes and secures around your foot. It’s quick. And it’s easy.

From kids that struggle to tie their shoes to your roommate that doesn’t take the time, to your parent or grandparent that lacks the hand dexterity — we have you covered.

You might be wondering where this whole idea came from. The whole brainstorm started after I broke my neck from a three-story fall in 1996. The injury left me paralyzed from the chest down and unable to move my body, which includes my fingers. Through the years I found work arounds for almost everything, but I never conquered shoes.

Frankly, I could never find a pair of shoes I could put on independently plus actually be happy and proud to wear.

So after staring at my feet for half a lifetime, I finally just cooked up my own solution. But the solution immediately grew into something much bigger than just an answer to my own challenges — it became a mission to provide shoes for everybody, for all abilities, and to ensure the functional shoes were built with attractive style.

Yes, our shoes have adaptive characteristics, but I would hardly call them “adaptive” in the traditional sense of the word. “Adaptive” refers to a niche market. And although we can satisfy the adaptive market, we are not constrained by it. Our customer target is everybody, which includes you! We are all equal. And by design, our shoes embody that belief.

The term “universal design” is used all the time in the construction of homes and city buildings. It refers to environments that accommodate all parties. So why not apply it to fashion?

Universal Design with Fashion in mind. It has a good ring to it, don’t you think?

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Disability

Woman pushing her wheelchair outside.

Why I'm Sometimes Lonely, but Never Alone as a Person With a Disability

When I take a stroll around town, it’s about the only time I can think of where I feel truly alone and at peace. Watching all the strangers drive by speedily in their cars from my wheelchair, all in a hurry to go somewhere. Surrounded by people, but to them I’m just another face. Although [...]
Scarf and hat crocheted by the author.

Living Life With Purpose When You Can't Work

One of the biggest hurdles I’ve navigated while living with chronic illness is a loss of purpose. I am lucky enough that my husband’s income can support our family without my working, but not going to a job every day has its own challenges. One of the first things we ask about when meeting new [...]

33 Truths Moms of Kids With Disabilities Want You to Know

I parent two kids with disabilities, and I’m often invited to speak to groups about “what it is like.” I usually begin by asking the audience to give me words or phrases they think describe my life, and I write them down for the audience to see. Usually these words include: hard, exhausting, messy, tiring, [...]

What I Wish People Knew About Disability and Kids Like Mine

Life promises surprises. I for one, am grateful for that fact. Some surprises can be wonderful and make you squeal with delight. Others can present difficulty and make you pause and bolster yourself up so that you can take the next step forward. Each type of surprise can make you grow. Each type of surprise [...]