When Izzy was little she always said that her favourite thing about being in a wheelchair was that her shoes never got dirty.

They looked brand new every day and the lights never ran out in her favourite light-up runners. However, her real shoes were her wheels. I remember we used to decorate her wheelchair for birthday parties and Halloween. We filled them with fresh flowers once when she was a flower girl for a wedding. At Christmas, we used to put tinfoil and lights around the wheels and lots of tiny Christmas decorations for the Xmas family show.

Izzy as a little girl

I always thought it was a great idea but I didn’t think that it would create such a demand

Izzy’s got such a bright and bubbly personality, but the first thing people noticed about her was her ‘medical device’ and that wasn’t a reflection of who she really is. Having a shiny and colourful wheelchair always gave her confidence and a lot of attention on those special occasions. But on regular days, she found it very frustrating and upsetting that there was nothing available to personalise it.

Izzy Wheels started out as a college project. I had a self-directed project in my final year and I wanted to do something that was not only creative but meaningful at the same time. My mom is mad into gardening and I think this had a big influence on us loving flowers and colours so much. In this project, my love of flowers and colours paired-up with a desire to help my sister, and we created Izzy Wheels.

If you can’t stand up, stand out!

Ailbhe Keane, Izzy Wheels (Images: Peter Varga)

We designed customisable spoke guards for wheelchairs. They attach to your wheel easily and the idea is that they transform the medical device into a piece of fashion and self-expression.

After I finished college, and with the success I achieved on my project, I thought we could create a website for Izzy Wheels and invite artists to create new designs to build an even bigger collection. We launched the website in 2016 and as soon as we started posting the photos and designs online it got huge attention and orders started to pour in from all over the world.

Izzy Wheels

We won awards and were interviewed by so many media outlets. Just last week, Instagram invited us to take over their Instagram profile for 24 hours, which has over 224 million followers. The best thing about the whole project is all the ideas I get to work on with my co-founder, best friend, and sister Izzy.

Find out more at izzywheels.com

Ailbhe Keane was talking to Peter Varga


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