Billy Price of Billy Footwear joins Mia on episode 61 of Shit We Don’t Talk About. Billy is here to talk about the difference between universal, adaptive, and inclusive design. There IS a difference, and it matters, so tune in!

The Highlights

UNIVERSAL DESIGN – This is a term that came out of architecture. Universal design is all about creating spaces that work for everyone, where ALL people can work or live, and any equipment required to maintain or operate that space also works for everyone. Billy Footwear set out to apply this concept to fashion, creating footwear that levels the playing field and works for everyone.

The origins of Billy Footwear come out of Billy’s lived experience. Billy broke his neck and back in a three-story fall early in his engineering education. The outcome was instant paralysis and life in a wheelchair, which forced Billy to find ways to get around his disability and take care of himself. When finding shoes became a problem, he set out to solve that problem.

Billy wanted to create designs that work for everyone, not just for people with disabilities. Billy’s own home – his condominium – was designed and renovated to accommodate Billy’s use of a wheelchair. But when he sold the condo, it was sold to people that are not wheelchair users and had no idea that someone with a wheelchair lived in the space. THAT is universal design.

Whenever possible, universal design trumps adaptive design. Even people without disabilities can encounter temporary mobility issues due to injury, and we all age and can encounter mobility issues as a natural part of life. Why not design to accommodate those issues automatically rather than assuming that everyone is fully mobile all the time?

When Billy and his partner created the first Billy Footwear shoes, it was important to create shoes that did no look like “adaptive” shoes. Billy Footwear shoes look like shoes. Until you wear them, you would not see them as anything different from what you’re used to wearing already.

Inclusive design has become a synonym for adaptive design. Adaptive design is design for disabilities. Inclusive design – in Billy’s world – is designed for everyone regardless of ability. Rather than keeping everyone in their own silo, Billy would rather tear down all the silos and put everyone on the same playing field using principles of universal and inclusive design.

“You gotta feel good about what you’re wearing. It just builds confidence.”
– Billy Price


About Billy Footwear

BILLY Footwear is the brainchild of two Seattle locals: Darin Donaldson and Billy Price. Our focus is on shoes that embody universal design, meaning they both appeal to and work for everyone. Smashing fashion with function, BILLY Footwear incorporates zippers that go along the side of the shoes and around the toe, allowing the upper of each shoe to open and fold over completely. Thus the wearer can place his or her foot onto the shoe footbed unobstructed. Then with a tug on the zipper pull the shoe closes and secures overtop the user’s foot. It’s simple. It’s easy.


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Music Credits:

Inspiring Experience by Rafael Krux


Inspirational Infinity Of Space by WinnieTheMoog