Ailbhe and Izzy Keane have won the 2017 Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow competition. Through their company, Izzy Wheels, the Galway sisters are on a mission to break down negative stigmas associated with wheelchairs and prove to the world that a wheelchair can be a work of art. Ailbhe is the Founder and Creative Director of the company, while Izzy acts as the Brand Ambassador.
The Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow programme (LOT), now in its 10th year, is designed to nurture and develop innovative ideas which may positively impact some of the challenges facing Ireland today. 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 programme. The prize includes a €5,000 cash injection to the winner’s start-up, a place on the National Digital Research Centre LaunchPad and a tour of one of Accenture’s Global Innovation Centres.
Izzy Wheels provides a range of waterproof, durable and creative spoke guards that can easily be fit onto any manual wheelchair, available through their online store at www.izzywheels.com. Izzy, as a wheelchair user, can identify what is needed to improve the chair while Ailbhe, as a designer, can address these needs and add her creative flair.
Izzy Wheels was born when Ailbhe 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, Ailbhe 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!”
Eight finalists were selected to take part in the LOT programme and were mentored and supported through a series of development days before competing in the final pitch presentation, which took place in front of a judging panel comprised of Ireland’s leading industry and business representatives.