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Fighting for disability equality one step at a time

For Oliver Lam-Watson, Team GB wheelchair fencer, designing a pair of limited edition shoes for Nike is about much more than fashion

Three years ago my doctor told me I would never walk or run normally and that I would never be an athlete. This was due to a disability in my left leg that I was born with, since then I’ve made it my goal to do what everyone told me I would never do.

Sport has been a huge part of that journey and now I can proudly say I represent my country at the highest level of wheelchair fencing with my sights set on the 2021 Paralympics. So, to say I was excited to hear that I had been chosen by the Nike by you workshop programme as one of 20 individuals in London to co-create a shoe, was an understatement. Not just because it’s a really cool opportunity but because it would give me a platform to challenge misconceptions about disability.
It’s so important to me to raise awareness that people are not only disabled by their diagnosis, but also by barriers in society. I want to challenge negative public attitudes, tackle stereotypes and battle unconscious bias. Since then I have set about creating YouTube videos about disability and social change. I use my channel to debunk myths about disability and talk about issues such as mental health.

I want to help transform the face of disability and address society's preconception that being disabled is about what you can’t do. That’s why I gave my shoe the name ‘At odds’ because it’s about being at odds with society's stereotypes of the disabled and different while celebrating the fact that different is not less.

Image shows the underside of the trainers. Taken from underneath, it shows someone's legs dangling over a wall.

The colours used in my design tell this story. Fencing white is indicative of society's unfair favour of the pristine, the contrasting blue swoosh evokes the blue badge standing out against that while the rust in the heel denotes showing our imperfections. A gum heel, revealed in motion represents moving to generate change through sport.

Nike are only creating 350 limited editions of the shoe and it will be available until Thursday August 13. I’m donating all the proceeds to Scope as I know it will go towards their work fighting for everyday equality and providing information and support to disabled people and their families.

Many disabled people are facing a really tough time right now because of coronavirus, facing isolation and anxiety, and Scope’s online community and helpline are vital sources of support. I’m proud to be able to support Scope with this project at this critical time.

Click here to buy a pair of Oliver's Nike At Odds shoes.

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