Impact & Opinions | Tionchar & Tuairimí

If you can’t stand up, stand out

If you can’t stand up, stand out

26 April 22
 | 9 MINS

Isabel Keane, co-founder of Izzy Wheels, talks about her positive experience of studying at NUI Galway as a person with a disability.

My time at NUI Galway taught me so much about myself as a person, as well as about the subject matter of my degree – Sociological and Political studies and French. Being in university really helped me to improve my communication skills, from asking lecturers for a helping hand getting in and out of some packed tutorial rooms, to asking complete strangers on campus to hold the door of An Bhialann open for me when I was getting my daily cup of tea. I really learned during my time at NUI Galway how truly lovely people are. The staff in An Bhialann, in particular, could not have been more willing to help when I needed it.  



Being able to whizz around campus with ease was the most freeing feeling ever and it gave me a huge confidence boost.

Something I learned which was invaluable to me personally, was how truly independent I am capable of being when my surroundings are wheelchair accessible. I can honestly say the NUI Galway campus is the most wheelchair accessible place I have ever been and being able to whizz around campus with ease was the most freeing feeling ever and it gave me a huge confidence boost. I am now much more confident when handling my wheelchair outside of campus too, thanks to having the opportunity to build up my wheelchair skills while on campus.  

The presentations I did for Sociological and Political studies really serve me when I’m giving talks for Izzy Wheels to various audiences. My French degree really served me recently when my sister Ailbhe and I were in Brussels for a competition run by the European Innovation Council. It was a really good feeling being able to try out some of my French and being able to eavesdrop on the various conversations that Francophone Belgians were having with one another. I was also able to order delicacies from the fab chocolatiers which Belgium has to offer with ease. It was also really great to have background knowledge of what the European Commission does when meeting some of the people who make the European Commission what it is today.   


If you can’t stand up, stand out

My joint honours degree in French and Sociological and Political studies has allowed me to obtain a really exciting internship with a disability rights and advocacy organisation called Independent Living Movement Ireland which I will be starting in January and I am so excited about it. The fact that my degree reflects that I have a huge passion for equity for all people, and knowledge of how things work in other countries really stood to me when seeking this internship. I am a true believer also that having knowledge of a second language will stand to you in any field of work and will make you more employable.  

I absolutely loved NUI Galway and what I studied and would really recommend the university to any wheelchair user who is interested in studying. 


About Izzy Wheels

Irish-based business Izzy Wheels fuses fashion and technology to create colourful wheelchair covers, helping to bridge the gap between disability and style. Known for its quirky sense of style and love of bold colour, Izzy Wheels was founded by sisters Isabel and Ailbhe Keane, originally from Galway.  

Inspired by her sister Isabel (Izzy) who was born with Spina Bifida and paralysed from her waist, the idea for the business came to Ailbhe in 2016. As a wheelchair user, Izzy believed her wheels symbolised freedom, but never felt her chair showcased her personality, motivating Ailbhe to create a range of eye-catching wheel covers for her sister’s chair as her final year project in The National College of Art and Design.  

In 2017, they began collaborating with other artists, designers, and brands from around the world to expand their collections and raise money for disability charities. Izzy Wheels have now collaborated with 90 famous designers from across the globe. The sisters quickly became well-known for their exuberant and playful fashion. 

Izzy Wheels became the first disability fashion brand to collaborate with some of the world’s most famous brands. In 2019 they teamed up with Barbie to create a range of designs for a new and inclusive wheelchair Fashionista Doll. In 2020, they created two limited edition wheel cover collections with Japanese pop icon Hello Kitty. Today, Disney has collaborated with Izzy Wheels, granting the sister duo usage of its extensive catalogue of character artwork, from Disney, Pixar and Marvel. 

Izzy Wheels has been featured in some of the world’s top global publications including Vogue, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Forbes, Oprah Magazine, TechCrunch and many more. The brand has won 15 national awards and both sisters were named on Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2018. Izzy Wheels was recently been awarded the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award 2017 and EU Prize for Women Innovators Rising Stars Award 2021. 

For more information visit: 

If you can’t stand up, stand out

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