The makers of Barbie are gearing up to roll out a wide selection of fashionable wheelchair covers for both kids, as well as adults. It will comprise miniature versions that have specifically been designed for the autumn/winter 2019 line of the dolls which feature a wheelchair and a ramp.
The makers have teamed up with Dublin-based bespoke wheelchair spoke guards seller Izzy Wheels. Sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane are the founder members of the company, which originally started as a college project four years ago.
The company's concept draws inspiration from Izzy who was born with Spina Bifida. Izzy is also paralyzed from her waist down.
While Ailbhe realized that people noticed her sister's wheelchair before anything else about her, she realized that the wheelchair she was using didn't exactly reflect her personality. This motivated Ailbhe to come up with a range of trendy wheel covers that represented the individuality and personality of wheelchair users.
“Our mission with Izzy Wheels is to challenge negative associations with wheelchairs and let users celebrate their individuality by personalizing their source of independence," Ailbhe explains.
They want to focus on showing the world that wheelchairs are more than merely a medical devices, and can be transformed into "a piece of artistic self-expression," she added.
The wheelchair covers effectively transform a person's wheelchair into a friendly object, rather than a device adopts a purely functional design. Aside from showing off the interests of the wheelchair user, stylish wheels help them open conversation as well, Izzy notes.
As a kid, Izzy had a wheelchair-using Barbie and she loves the fact that the new generation of children with disabilities can play with a Barbie that doesn't make them feel any less.
The duo joined forces with four British artists and designers to create limited-edition Barbie collection. This team comprises graphic artists Annu Kilpeläinen, Hattie Stewart, Malika Favre, and inclusive fashion label ART SCHOOL.
"My design is all about Girl Power – fun and playful with interacting characters and bold patterns," Stewart said.
The AW19 series of Barbie dolls features a wheelchair user Barbie, a ramp, and Barbie with a prosthetic limb. These represent the first Barbie dolls with disabilities since the popular "Share a Smile" Becky doll, which was introduced in 1997.
Image credit: Inspirefest HQ/YouTube Screencap