It started with a simple-sounding request: Was it possible to build a special bicycle for a young boy who had cerebral palsy?
For Ken Vanstraelen, who fielded that request back in 1991, that question about an adapted bicycle became a business – Freedom Concepts, a company in Winnipeg, Manitoba, built on principles of mobility, but also of inclusion, independence, and the belief that common childhood activities should be within reach of all kids, including those with special needs.
Since its start in April 1991, the company has delivered thousands of customized bikes to kids and their families around the world, and Freedom Concepts has expanded its product offerings to include therapeutic seating.
Along the way, the company, whose staff is well known for sporting brightly colored ensembles ranging from Hawaiian shirts to hockey jerseys at industry and consumer events, has imbued its technology goals with a unique, energetic style.
“From the very first bike, Freedom Concepts Inc. has been all about providing the freedom to ride, the freedom to be independent, and the freedom to live a normal life,” said Vanstraelen, the company’s CEO/president, in a news announcement. “It’s amazing to see the impact our bikes and chairs have made in so many different countries throughout the world.”
Freedom Concepts’ adapted bike portfolio includes 18 different models to accommodate riders of all ages and abilities. Bikes can be customized as needed with options such as adapted seating, footplates and headrests. Bikes are typically built with input from an occupational or physical therapist to help ensure proper fit, and to determine the rider’s level of ability.
In 2006, the company introduced the Chill-Out Chair, alternative seating that provides optimal, comfortable positioning in an attractive design and with vibrant upholstery choices that blend right into a living room or a child’s bedroom. This year, Freedom Concepts launched the Sunshine Series fabrics for the Chill-Out Chair line, and introduced wheels that can take the Chair outdoors.
“I think I can speak for all of our staff,” Vanstraelen said, “when I say that we feel a great deal of pride when we look at the differences we’ve made in the lives of people with mobility challenges, and we look forward to making a difference in the lives of many more for the next 25 years and beyond.”