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spina bifida


Izzy Wheels has teamed up with Barbie to create four-limited edition wheelchair covers to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the global doll brand.

The company was created by Irish sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane in order to provide customised wheelchair spoke guards, and has gone from strength to strength since it's origin.

The sisters have said their new collaboration with Barbie is "a dream come true", according to RTE. The doll manufacturer launched a new range featuring dolls with disabilities.

Four UK-based fashion designers and artists created the wheel covers, which are available in sizing for any manual wheelchair and in a special Barbie-scale edition for the Barbie wheelchair doll.

Ailbhe said: "Our mission with Izzy Wheels is to challenge negative associations with wheelchairs and let users celebrate their individuality by personalising their source of independence.

"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."


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Ailbhe added;

"Fashion and fun are at the heart of what we do, and we're thrilled to work with talented designers to pay homage to Barbie in her 60th year and celebrate dolls with even more diversity.

"This is a dream collaboration for us because Izzy and I were huge Barbie fans as little girls."

Izzy was born with Spina Bifida and is paralysed from her waist down, and the company began when Ailbhe designed wheelchair covers for her sister for an NCAD project.


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Izzy told RTE that she was over the moon at the idea of little girls and boys with disabilities having a realistic doll to play with;

"Having a Barbie in a wheelchair meant so much to me as a little girl, and I love that a whole new generation of kids with disabilities can play with a Barbie that represents them."

Izzy Wheels has been featured in some of the world's most noteworthy publications, including Vogue, Cosmopolitan and TechCrunch. 

Izzy and Ailbhe were also the first Irish people to be asked to take over Instagram's official account and were named in the Forbes '30 under 30' list of rising entrepreneurs.

The Barbie-inspired wheel covers are available on the Izzy Wheels website, whilst the Barbie with Wheelchair dolls are available from Irish and UK toy stores.

The covers are €139, with Annu Kilpeläinen, Hattie Stewart, Malika Favre and Art School designing the range. "If you can't stand up, stand out!", as the gals themselves say.

Feature image: Izzy Wheels/Instagram/@izzywheels


It’s the disease that most people have a vague notion of without, perhaps, fully understanding what exactly it entails.

Spina bifida: a relatively common condition which affects about one in every 1,000 children born in Ireland – one of the highest rates in the world.

And one woman who is acutely familiar with it is Co. Antrim-native Louise Boyd. She is the mother of seven-year-old Amy, and Sophie, four.

Sophie suffers from spina bifida, as well as hydrocephalus – which results in excessive fluid in the brain – and Arnold Chiari malformation; a defect in her cerebellum, the part of your brain that controls balance.

Her family knew in advance that she’d be born with health problems – because her spina bifida was discovered during Louise’s pregnancy, around the half-way point. Sophie had her first operation, the first of many she would endure, when she was just four hours old.

Louise explains: “Although Sophie can walk, she has issues with mobility and balancing, falls over quite a lot and has difficulty managing uneven ground, kerbs and steps and cannot walk for long distances.”

Sophie also needs to use nappies and a catheter for bladder and bowel problems, although she now only sees a specialist once a year for a check-up.

Louise, who didn't take folic acid initially but started taking it as soon as she found out she was pregnant, describes Sophie as a “lively, chatty little girl who is very sociable and loves dressing up and clothes and playing with her cousins and friends”.

The mother-of-two also admits that she had no real idea what spina bifida would mean for her family, adding that she was “shocked” when they were given the diagnosis.

She remains upbeat, however. “All in all I would say having a child with spina bifida has had a positive impact to our family – although it is difficult when your child cannot do the things other children can do, it has brought us a more positive perspective on life and what is important.

“Health and family are the most important things anything else is a bonus.”

Describing them as “an invaluable support,” Louise advises anyone who has had a spina bifida diagnosis to get in contact with SHINE (especially for those in Northern Ireland) or Spina Bifida Hydrocaphalus Ireland as soon as they feel ready. “Also try to contact other families who can share experiences and more often than not, alleviate your worries,” she adds.

Any woman planning a family, who is sexually active or of childbearing age needs to take the recommended dose of folic acid daily in order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

However, Louise adds: “If you do have a spina bifida diagnosis of your baby – don't panic, it is a long and winding road but a very rewarding one.”

At safefood, they don’t usually tell people to take supplements.That’s because if you eat healthy, you can generally get all the nutrients you need from food. There is one exception though – that’s folic acid for women who are sexually active and could become pregnant, even if you’re not planning to have a baby any time soon.

So make sure you take folic acid for three months before you become pregnancy and for the first three months of your pregnancy to help your baby’s spine and brain develop properly.

You can check out the facts here.