* This post is written by one of our volunteer content creators - it is not sponsored. *
When I first began relying on a wheelchair to get around, it was like giving up an element of my independence and identity. I felt stuck with a chair that didn’t exactly represent "me", as it was boring - but what could I do to customise it? I was still under the impression that I would only be reliant on my wheelchair for a short period of time, so I tried not to fixate on how my chair looked, yet this was over 2.5 years ago! Now, this isn't something to pity; but instead, acknowledge how this realisation inevitably gave me a strong drive to make some necessary changes to my wheelchair in order to make it more suitable and customised! Something I wouldn't feel out of place in or would prevent others from seeing it as an extension of my unique style. To my surprise, I quickly discovered many wonderful ways in which we can personalise our wheelchairs, so I am going to share some of my favourite suggestions in a trio of blog posts! Starting with a list of wheel adaptations that vary in price, subtly and ease!
To add a pop of colour to your wheels, how about purchasing some spoke covers? The picture below is from Amazon, but a quick google search yields a plethora of possible alternatives! I have even seen many individuals use washi tape or colourful packing tape on their spokes - however, my one concern with this option is that the adhesive properties could be affected by different weather conditions and may be harder to apply.
On the subject of making a statement, getting yourself a set of Wheely Bright Lights from JML would certainly make you stand out in a crowd. I like the idea of using these at night so that other people could see my wheelchair! My fellow AYL creator Lauren regularly uses these lights to avoid getting bumped when leaving a busy environment late at night, or to make it easier for bus/taxi drivers to spot her in crowded city centers such as London!
These easy to install LED lights come in a variety of colours and can be used in all weather conditions! It works by attaching a small tube of lights to the rim of your wheel, clipping a detachable power pack to one of your spokes and finally pressing the on/off button to power the lights!
Now if you are a manual wheelchair user residing in a particularly wet part of the country, you have probably found it difficult to maintain your grip on your lush rims if they start getting slippery. This can be unnerving at the best of times, as it puts our safety, and subsequently our independence, at risk. So if this is something you struggle with, why not grab yourself a set of push rim grips? The product I have included below is from Ultra-Grrrip on Amazon, however again, a simple google search reveals several alternatives from a range of suppliers. Either way, they all seem simple to attach to the rim of your wheel. Although, I have heard that the grips can sometimes pop off over time, especially when transporting the chair - so I would recommend using securing the grip in several places!
As a wheelchair user, I am constantly trying to ensure the utmost comfort when using my chair, especially as I live in a rural area which makes for a bumpy ride and increased pain levels! This is why I am so grateful that I discovered Loopwheels - coincidentally after coming across Lauren’s reviews on this website!
Loopwheels have a built-in suspension mechanism that absorbs shock and reduces vibration - making your journey smoother and comfier. However one of the really neat things about Loopwheels is the degree of customisation you can apply to your order. Classic Loopwheels come in blue, purple, orange, white, black, and green; in addition to two-toned patterns or rainbow themes! However, custom colour choices and push rim upgrades do come at an additional cost! As a proud owner of these wheels, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these pricey wheels to another wheelchair user. I also advise checking out their Try Before You Buy scheme and various repayment plans to make your purchase more affordable!
This is personally my favourite way to customise a chair - and even though I haven't owned a pair of spoke guards before, the options are truly endless; especially with the ever-growing product ranges from companies such as Bundle Bean and IzzyWheels! It is also a cheaper alternative to buying Loopwheels, as spoke guards can be used to customise almost any wheel!
Izzy Wheels are a Dublin based brand founded by Irish sisters Ailbhe (pronounced Alva) and Izzy Keane. The idea was inspired by Izzy who was born with Spina Bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down. Izzy always saw her wheelchair as a symbol of freedom, but never felt it expressed her bubbly personality. So that’s when Ailbhe created Izzy Wheels, as part of her final year college project in The National College of Art and Design (NCAD).
I adore how broad their product range is and how they make such an effort to appeal to everyone's style preferences. They have even worked with some incredible artists to create fashionable alternatives to the standard spoke guard! The following three designs are my personal favourites, and I would possess one or more of said designs if I could use them in conjunction with my LoopWheels! Although after messaging IzzyWheels on Instagram and sending some static images of the wheel design - they didn't think the product would be compatible with my Loopwheels due to the way their guards attach to the wheel.
BundleBean began in 2011 after the creator Emily Goodall felt frustrated with the mountains of baby ‘kit’ that seemed necessary once she had two toddlers. So she decided to design the waterproof footmuff and eventually added a range of wheelchair cosy’s, organisers and spoke guards to her online shop. However, unlike most wheelchair accessories, BundleBean has worked very hard to create products that are eye-catching, non-restrictive, waterproof and easy to use for people of all abilities!
Each pair of BundleBean Spoke Guards come with 10 self-adhesive clips and 10 fastening bands, meaning you are in charge of placing the adhesive clips. Because of this, you should be able to attach these Spoke Guards to almost any wheelchair wheel - even Loopwheels!
After testing this product at an exhibition, Lauren mentioned that she was pleasantly surprised by how easy the fitting process was. Making it a great option for children who would like to participate in the process of customising their wheelchair, as you don’t have to use a fitting tool and there are no nuts or bolts!
Another option is Spoke Guards, a company allowing the highest level of personalisation. For example, they have worked with clients to create customised guards using photos of family pets. If you wish to gain some creative inspiration why not head over to the customer gallery to see how other wheelchair users have chosen to express their style. However, if a personal design isn't your thing you can visit their online shop which is a quick and easy way to order a set of spoke guards with one of their permanent designs.
As you can see, IzzyWheels, Spoke Guards and Bundle Bean all produce similar products, yet they all vary in price, style, and ease of application. However, this means that there is something out there to meet everyone’s budget, ability, and design preferences!
I’m sure you could discover even more options online and in stores that distribute medical devices and/or wheelchair accessories. But before you commit to purchasing one of the products mentioned above, be sure to double-check if your wheels are compatible! You can do this by contacting the AYL team, or by clicking any of the links listed below. Alternatively, if you would like to chat about any of my ideas for customising your wheelchair wheels, please feel free to leave a comment or message me directly via my social accounts linked below!
Finally, Loopwheels have kindly provided the AYL community with a £100 discount code!!! This can even be used in conjunction with their ex-demo wheels, which are currently selling for £699 - meaning you would only have to pay £599 (either in full or via a payment plan). So please get in touch if you would like more information on the demo-wheel discount, or alternatively use the code ‘AYL2020’ at the checkout to receive your £100 discount!