“If you can’t stand up, stand out!” Ireland’s newest startup proudly proclaims.
Izzy Wheels is the brainchild of Ailbhe and Isabel Keen and sells a variety of colorful wheelchair spoke guards. They see their products as a powerful way to transform something that many view with pity into something a positive design choice.
“Izzy Wheels are so important to me because they draw such positive attention to myself and my wheelchair,” says Isabel Keane told TechCrunch. “I am no longer seen as ‘the poor unfortunate girl in a wheelchair’ by passers-by. I am now seen as a stylish person with cool wheels. They really reflect the relationship I have with my wheelchair… Wheelchairs help, they do not hinder a person and now they do not hinder a person’s fashion choices”.
She and her co-founder/sister Ailbhe spied a gap in the market after realizing that the only such additions to wheelchairs were designed with children in mind and were also prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, they were a hassle to put on and take off.
By contrast, Izzy Wheels products start at $110 and are easily taken on or off.
“The problem is wheelchairs have looked the same for 100 years,” Ailbhe Keane added. “People have negative connotations with wheelchairs and associate them with sick or elderly people. A wheelchair can cost up to €10,000 and none of this goes towards the appearance of your chair. We want to give one of the world’s most underserved community of people the freedom to express themselves… Self-expression is a right”.
And the hundreds of sales they’ve made so far suggests demand for the spoke guards suggests they’ve tapped into a market crying out color and individuality.
“Since launching, we realized the demand for personalization,” Ailbhe said. “We are currently working on a digital platform for Izzy Wheels called ‘Be-spoked’. This platform will give users the ability to build their own designs from a wide range of prints, colours, text and elements. We hope to launch this platform in the next few months”.