Galway girl Izzy is the brand ambassador for Izzy Wheels, a company founded by her and her sister Ailbhe that makes designer wheel covers for wheelchairs. A disability advocate and fashion lover, Izzy is currently studying sociology, politics and French in NUIG. She wants the design world to think outside the box to include people with disabilities, and aims to educate others about the importance of inclusive design.
What’s your best holiday memory?
When my sister Ailbhe and I won the Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow award, we won a trip to New York. We got to do such amazing things, like get a tour of the Teen Vogue offices and also visit the United Nations headquarters. I think the best and most exciting part of the whole trip was having the opportunity to meet Mary Robinson – being a closet politics nerd, I was so excited to meet the first-ever female President of Ireland.
What is your biggest fear?
At the moment, my biggest fear is definitely catching Covid-19 and passing it on to my family. The idea that I could even unintentionally cause someone else to become unwell really scares me.
What’s the first thing you’d do if you were Taoiseach?
I would adapt the curriculum for primary school and secondary school to include education for children and teenagers about disability. It would include information about different types of physical and intellectual disabilities, and accessibility for wheelchair users and people who are visually impaired or blind etc. Speakers with a variety of different disabilities would come into classes to speak about their own personal experiences with their disabilities.
Who’d you most like to go for a pint with?
I think I would have to say Barack Obama. He seems like such an interesting and humble, yet incredibly intelligent, person. He also seems like he would be quite easy to talk to, and I would say he has extremely interesting stories to tell from his time as the first-ever black president of the United States.
What fictional character do you most identify with?
Mr Bean, because I am incredibly clumsy and get myself into quite the sticky situation at times.
What is your most treasured possession?
My wheelchair! Not only does it signify one of the more interesting and unique parts of my life story, but it is the key to my freedom.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
In day-to-day life, you should not compete against others: you should compete against yourself, to become better at something than you were before.
What item in your wardrobe do you wear the most?
Definitely my Izzy Wheels wheel covers. If I were to leave the house without them, I would honestly feel completely naked. I absolutely love how they tie my outfit and my wheelchair together, but also how strangers approach me in such a positive manner, complimenting my wheelchair rather than giving me unintentional looks of pity – which any wheelchair user is very accustomed to.
Who are your heroes?
I know it sounds really cheesy but I would have to say my biggest heroes are my siblings and parents. They are always the first people to remind me that I can do something when I have self-doubt. Since I am the youngest in my family, seeing all the things that my older sisters and brother and, of course, my parents have achieved gives me a nudge to at least try to succeed at something that I want.
When did you last cry?
One day when I got sucked down a Covid rabbit hole… I definitely think it is really important to keep myself informed in regards to the virus, but I need to keep reminding myself that in order to be a completely healthy person, I need to keep an eye on my mental wellbeing as well as my physical wellbeing.
What’s your greatest passion in life?
Doing what I can to break down the barrier which exists between people with disabilities and people who don’t have any previous knowledge or experience of disability. It is extremely important that people who don’t have any previous knowledge or experience of disability are allowed to feel comfortable enough to ask a person with a disability questions about the disabled person’s experience – and that people with disabilities become comfortable enough to be able to speak about their experiences of having a disability in a general sense.
If you had to choose only three adjectives to describe yourself, which would they be?
Bubbly, silly and friendly.
What’s your favourite film?
I loved the first Mamma Mia! movie because it’s really cheesy and feelgood – the songs are so familiar and catchy.
What one piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
I would tell myself not to compare myself to anyone else and that the only person I am really competing with is myself… but that is definitely easier said than done, so I’m not sure I would listen to myself, to be honest!
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I would absolutely love to be able to fly. Birds honestly look like they have so much fun gliding around in the sky and I want to be able to experience that – and also I know for a fact, for the few people who I still come across who feel pity for me because I cannot walk, I think being able to fly past them would immediately cause their pity to be transformed into jealousy!
Do you believe in a God?
My faith mainly lies in humanity, rather than in a God in the traditional definition of the word. Something that I love about my disability is that it really allows me to see the good, generous and helpful sides of people. I completely respect whatever anyone’s reason for being a good person is – whether it be because they want to do right by their God or because they just simply want to be a good person.
* There are 80 different pairs of Izzy Wheels available from izzywheels.com. Izzy will be talking at the Adobe Max online showcase for designers and creatives, October 20-22