‘It just clicked’: Daughter’s recess struggle leads mom to design innovative wheelchair ‘bodycoat’

A mother in Michigan took matters into her own hands after her 10-year-old daughter kept complaining about being cold during recess. 

Jennifer Harrison said her daughter Zoey, who has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair, had grown frustrated with the amount of time it took to get ready for the playground. 

“By the time her parapro would get her dressed to go outside for recess, it would be time to come in or the bell would ring,” Harrison said. 

10-year-old Zoey Harrison wears her X-Ability bodycoat. ((X-Ability))

Jennifer decided an easy fix to the problem would be to design a coat that would not only keep her daughter warm, but would also be easy to use.

“I had been buying coats trying to modify the bottom of them to sit in her wheelchair when it just clicked,” Harrison said. “What if I just flip one side upside down and modify the tab way, then we can zip it all the way up?”

After lots of sketching and a few failed attempts, Jennifer had successfully created a “bodycoat” for Zoey. 

Jennifer posted an instructional video on how to use the coat online and received an overwhelming response.

“In about a week or so we had over a million hits, and thousands of people had requested it,” Harrison said.

The positive feedback helped Jennifer and her husband John develop their business model for X-Ability Bodycoats, outerwear made specifically for people with disabilities. 

“Helping you look good — and stay comfortable, warm and dry — so you can experience all of life’s simple joys without limitations,” the company’s website reads.

The family run business has expanded quite a bit since the roll out of its prototype in 2017. 

X-Ability now sells bodycoats for adults and children, rain coats, ski coats and cold weather accessories. There are several other lines in the works as well.

While the expansion has been exciting, Harrison said nothing compares to the feedback the company receives from their customers. 

“We get to see like 99 percent of our customers in our product,” Harrison said. “The cards come in with angels on them and it’s very heartwarming because you know we have a child like that too.”

The experience has also been life changing for Zoey, who loves talking to customers.

"She’s made a lot of friends," Harrison said.  “Some are older than her and can answer questions that we can’t answer, like how do they date or how do they modify their homes.”

When asked about what she likes most about interacting with customers, Zoey had a few simple words: “I love knowing I’m helping change people’s lives,” Zoey said.