Friday 22 February 2019

Sisters behind 'Izzy Wheels' among entrepreneurs addressing diversity imbalance at StartAbility event

Izzy and Ailbhe Keane. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Izzy and Ailbhe Keane. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

People with disabilities who are interested in entrepreneurship are being called to a unique event co-organised by Rehab Group.

StartAbility, which has also stemmed from the efforts of L’Arche and Waytobe, is running as part of StartupWeek Dublin.

The informational evening was inspired by the need to address the imbalance of representation of people with disabilities in the workforce.

According to Rehab Group Innovation Manager David Pollard, people with disabilities suffer significant discrimination regarding employment opportunities.

"In the region 13pc of the population have a disability, and just 30pc of people of working age with disabilities are working," he said.

"This event is about tackling that gap and empowering people who may want to start their own business. People with disabilities are innate problem-solvers and are an untapped and rich resource. We want to see an increase in the rate of active entrepreneurship in the disability community."

Among the speakers at StartAbility is Dublin founder-CEO of AsIAm.ie Adam Harris, who set up his organisation to provide a central online hub for the Autism community, aiming to inform and empower those affected.

"Those of us who are autistic often work better in our own time and space and excel in the areas we are most passionate about. This means entrepreneurship and self-employment can be an ideal route for many autistic people. We think outside the box and isn't that what entrepreneurship is all about?," he said.

The Galway sisters behind ‘Izzy Wheels’, Ailbhe and Izzy, who were named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, will also be at the event.

Ailbhe Keane (25) is the founder and creative director of Izzy Wheels, a company that creates customised spoke guards for wheelchairs.

It started off as a college project when she was studying Visual Communication in Dublin's NCAD. When asked to create something that would benefit the lives of people with long-term lifestyle health conditions, she was inspired by sister Izzy.

Izzy (21), the brand ambassador, was born a spiral condition called Spina Bifida. She is paralysed from the waist down and requires the use of a wheelchair.

"Having a disability can give you a unique understanding of the world and how it’s been designed. This understanding can be incredibly valuable. Right now there are more accessories created for dogs than there are for people with disabilities," said Ailbhe.

"It’s a massive area of design which is incredibly underserved. Who better to design for this community than the people themselves?"

Mr Pollard said: "Not everyone with a disability wants to be entrepreneur but it is so important that we try to change our view of disability so we can create a different future for those born with or acquiring a disability today."

StartAbility takes place on Tuesday November 20 at Zendesk offices in Dublin between 6pm and 8.30pm.

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