Former Shepherd Center Patient Opens Store To Make Independence Easy
HandiAccessories provides adaptive products to make life easier for people with disabilities.
Necessity is the mother of invention, or so the saying goes. Former Shepherd Center patient Talbot Kennedy, 30, of Atlanta, is turning that phrase into a business. As the owner of HandiAccessories, he’s built his operation on the simple idea that if he’s found a need for a product to help him as a person with C-5 to C-6 quadriplegia, there are probably others who need it, too. His goal, he said, is to create products that live up to the store’s motto – “Independence Made Easy.”
“I’ve been coming up with this stuff since I got hurt, and developed it around whatever I like doing and am having a hard time doing,” Talbot said. “So I work on making it so I can do what I need to do as independently as I can.”
A member of his high school’s cheerleading team in Memphis, Tenn., Talbot was practicing some new tricks on a trampoline on the last day of school in 2004 when he was injured. After being in an acute care hospital for two weeks, he transferred to Shepherd Center for rehabilitation and has stayed in Atlanta ever since. While living in Atlanta, he’s become a star on the Shepherd Smash quadriplegic rugby team, and he competes in wheelchair racing and bass fishing tournaments for Shepherd.
“Recreation therapy is one of the most important aspects of therapy,” Talbot said.
That’s why he’s created several products for recreational activities. They are grasping cuffs for weightlifting and fishing, along with another device that helps someone with limited or no hand function reel in fish, and a strap that helps secure a person to their wheelchair when they’re playing sports.
The store is his first foray into business, and its staff is made up of Talbot, along with his mom and dad. He has the ideas, and his mom does the sewing that turns the ideas into products.
“She does it all,” he said. “My mom makes every one of those products by herself. She’s pretty awesome.”
In addition to sporting goods, he also makes strap-on utensils like knives and forks, dressing aids like an unbuttoner and covers to hide a Foley catheter or leg bag.
Most of Talbot’s ideas are incredibly simple, he said, as the name of his Simple Pull-On Socks indicates. For someone who has impaired hand function or arthritis, getting the sock over the toes is difficult.
“Now you can just slip a finger into the tab and whether the finger has function or not, the finger is still going to go through the loop to pull it up,” he said.
Talbot recently launched a website and has spent time going to trade shows and expos to promote his business. In addition, he and his friends are recommending the store to their friends and contacts on their social media pages. Word is gradually spreading about HandiAccessories, he added.
“I just can’t believe that some of this stuff hasn’t been out there,” Talbot said. “It’s been really rewarding when people tell me that the products are helping them. Many of them have been hurt for a while, and being able to come up with a simple idea that helps others has been great.”
Written by David Terraso
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.