About five years ago, Canadian native Louise Sertsis wouldn’t necessarily call herself social, as the progression of her Multiple Sclerosis made it difficult physically and emotionally to be around others. However, she realized that her diagnosis should not deter her from living a fully independent life. As she began to strive for a life without limitations, she realized that there was a gap when it came to accessibility and everyday products and fashion.
Today, Sertsis is now the creator of Advanced Freedom, an online business that focuses on adaptive and inclusive products for individuals living with a mobility impairment.
“You know, it was solely based out of my own need for a bag designed that would sit in front of me. I have Multiple Sclerosis and my core isn’t very strong. So, it’s hard for me to turn around and get my belongings,” explained Sertsis.
“I felt like I lost so much Independence being in the chair that I wanted to create something that would allow me to be independent, as well as functional as possible to the user. All too often products have not been designed for wheelchair user’s in mind, and for me, I’m hoping to design my own creation of bags.”
With the support of her husband, Sertsis created the Handi-Pac. The bag is similar to a regular backpack. Instead of it resting on the back handles or to the side of the wheelchair, it can fasten directly across a persons lap and legs, making it easier to retrieve desired items. It also features magnets buckles instead of the traditional buckles for those who may have limited hand function. As well, every clasp will feature an O ring that is much more functional than the present D ring.
“Traveling is now fun, as some of my independence is regained with this bag. Inclusion is a word rarely spoken, but it is my hope that the “Handi-Pac” will be used to help bridge the gaping hole that exists presently. Personally, I feel this greater independence will give me more confidence and will help to create inclusion, safety and freedom.”
When originally creating the bag, there was a fair share of hurdles to overcome, one of them being how to make a bag. Having a degree in human kinetics and no business experience, Sertsis went online to research potential vendors who could help her create a prototype. There she found a partner who brought her idea from paper into production.
“I was really lucky when I looked on the internet to scout for different materials and button options. Because I had the vision in my head, but I needed someone to help me decide the where and how. I found a gentleman who had experience designing for the Canadian military. It was a total fluke. We have been talking on the phone for two and a half years. He is very committed to helping me bring the Handi Pac to market. He’s a big piece of the puzzle and beyond, to come up with a design and build all my prototypes.”
“I started Advanced with the hope to make my life easier and become more independent. I hope to make enough noise and generate a stir around this issue so that designers think of our community while creating products.”