Pimp my ride: Galway sisters win award for colourful wheelchair idea

‘Until now wheelchair users have been made feel ashamed or even embarrassed of their ugly equipment,’ say pair behind Izzy Wheels

Izzy Wheels came up with the idea of creative spoke guards to allow wheelchair users to express themselves. Photograph: Shane O’Neill Photography

Izzy Wheels came up with the idea of creative spoke guards to allow wheelchair users to express themselves. Photograph: Shane O’Neill Photography

 

Two Galway sisters who came up with the idea of creating customised spoke guards for wheelchairs have won this year’s Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow competition.

Ailbhe and Izzy Keane are the brains behind Izzy Wheels, which provides a range of waterproof, durable and creative spoke guards for wheelchair users.

The start-up was saluted for breaking down negative stigmas associated with wheelchair use and tapping into a new market.

The sisters were selected from a shortlist of eight finalists for Accenture’s €5,000 top prize. The winners will also be afforded a place on the National Digital Research Centre LaunchPad programme.

Now in its 10th year, Accenture’s Leaders of Tomorrow competition aims to nurture and develop innovative ideas that have a positive impact on society.

The competition asks students and graduates to pitch an idea or product, which is developed into a viable business plan over the course of the Accenture competition programme.

Izzy Wheels was born when Ailbhe Keane was in her final year at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and was given a project brief to use design to enhance the life of someone living with a long-term health condition.

Having seen how frustrated Izzy was by the very few options available for her to personalise her wheelchair, she began designing creative spoke guards to allow wheelchair users to express themselves and feel empowered.

Commenting on the win, Ailbhe and Izzy said: “There are 40,000 wheelchair users in Ireland and 640,000 in the UK. Until now wheelchair users have been made feel ashamed or even embarrassed of their ugly equipment.”

“Winning this competition will allow us to further break down the stigmas surrounding wheelchair use and allow more users to express themselves. Our tagline is, ‘If you can’t stand up, stand out,” they said.

Alastair Blair, country managing director at Accenture Ireland, said: “ Izzy and Ailbhe are incredibly talented entrepreneurs who spotted an opportunity and made it a reality.”