Two entrepreneurial sisters from Dublin have scored a win for inclusivity by teaming up with Barbie to produce a sleek new range of wheelchair wheel covers for their company Izzy’s Wheels. The duo want to help wheelchair users customise their chairs and express their personalities. However, Izzy and Ailbhe ultimately want to help spark positive conversations about wheelchairs and change attitudes towards them.
The idea behind Izzy’s Wheels was inspired by 22-year-old Izzy, who lives with Spina Bifida. She uses a wheelchair full-time and has always seen her wheelchair as an accessory to enable her freedom. Izzy wanted to change the attitudes of those who saw wheelchairs as unattractive and purely functional. With a keen eye for fashion, Izzy regularly customised her wheelchair to express her personality using coloured stickers. Inspired by her sister and noticing a lack of creative variety of mobility aids, Ailbhe created Izzy’s Wheels.
Ailbhe describes how quickly it took off, saying: “We launched the online store and quickly began shipping our designs all over the world. One of our videos went viral last summer and we had to rapidly scale up the company to keep up with the huge demand!”
A Dream Team
As life-long fans of Barbie, having the world-famous brand become the latest contributor for the company has been a dream come true for the sisters.
Izzy excitedly said: “As little girls, we were obsessed with Barbie and even had a doll who used a wheelchair who we used to make little wheel covers for! Now a whole new generation of kids with disabilities can play with a Barbie who represents them too!”
Representation for All
The collaboration with Izzy’s Wheels is part of a wider initiative to help Barbie become more inclusive and representative. The collection includes a Barbie who uses a wheelchair and comes complete with a ramp.
Included in the collaboration with Izzy’s Wheels, Barbie has manufactured scaled-down versions of the wheel covers created by Izzy and Ailbhe to fit on the latest Barbie doll’s wheelchair. Since their release just over a month the dolls and the matching wheel covers have been a hit with shoppers who have described the pairing as a leap forward for inclusivity. For Izzy and Ailbhe, they hope the project will continue to highlight the wider issues regarding attitudes towards wheelchair users.
Izzy concluded: “We want to show the world that wheelchairs can be so much more than a medical device, they can be a piece of artistic self-expression.”