Meet the disabled entrepreneur who turned his adversity into a business solution

Paddy Costeloe, age 69, tells the story behind his business which brings a solution to a national struggle - giving people with mobility needs the opportunity to enjoy life’s pleasures just like everyone else.

Paddy is no stranger to travelling, he was born in Yorkshire, grew up in Somerset and completed his teaching qualifications in Exeter. Having taught for four years, he moved to Italy where he played rugby and opened his first restaurant. After time in California, Paddy moved to Antigua where he opened three more restaurants.

His idyllic life in the Caribbean was suddenly turned upside down following a tragic speedboat accident. Paddy was air-lifted to hospital where he underwent multiple operations over the course of several months. When he was discharged, against all predictions, he was able to walk out of hospital with the help of a walking stick.

Over the years Paddy’s ability to walk steadily deteriorated, because of the continuing growth of scar tissue around his spinal cord, which ultimately caused complete paralysis from the waist down, forcing him to become a full-time wheelchair user.

Adjusting to a new way of life, Paddy and his family moved back to the UK in 2012, settling in South Devon.

They immediately recognised the scarcity of accessibility in the region, particularly in accommodation. With this, the Omnipod vision was born to offer ‘plug-in’ accommodation solutions to better service people with disabilities across the country. With the help of two friends from his rugby days, Paddy bought a beautiful site in the South Hams to build a universally accessible retreat which could accommodate people with varying degrees of physical impairments. The planning approval process was long and arduous, and it was required for Paddy to evidence the significant shortage of accessible accommodation in the area.

Paddy explained: “I had to prove the need for making the retreat for the purpose of accommodating accessibility. It was the significant evidence I found in my research which secured the planning permission. I surveyed 1,362 self-catering places in the South Hams, 10 of which claimed they offered accessibility. I investigated the 10 further and found that only three had adequate facilities to accommodate accessible needs.

“When I investigated further, I established that the significant scarcity of accessible accommodation wasn’t just a local issue, it was a national issue. With this, we decided to put the development of our site to one side and focus on manufacturing modular accessible units so that we could offer a solution on a broader scale.”

The first model on the market, the Omnipod, aims to raise the bar in luxury outdoor living. It’s a modular “glamping-style” pod, including; state-of-the-art mobility fittings which are integrated throughout the space in an understated way. With the focus of the design on luxury and comfort, it forms a contemporary ‘home-from-home’ for guests and offers a myriad of applications, from granny annexes, to garden cabins and holiday rentals.

Determined for the Omnipod to have a positive impact, Paddy commented: “The product is here to add value to people’s lives. I can’t say enough about the difference it will make. It will be life-changing to people who have a struggle due to disease, physical impairments or an accident; not having a comfortable space in which to live, can be hell.

“Just simple actions are immensely difficult and that’s why, with the Omnipod, we have created an environment which includes basic features such as; a wet-room with a shower seat, detachable support-handles, wheelchair accessible sinks, low-level kitchen worktops, level entry doorways and lots of space throughout. This absolutely transforms someone’s life and enables them to enjoy a holiday just like everyone else can, without feeling restricted!”

The Omnipod is a ‘plug-in’ accommodation solution which is designed to be easy to transport and install anywhere, whether it be at holiday and caravan parks, campsites or within the grounds of hotels and B&Bs. Due to click-in, click-out fittings the space is versatile and provides a dual purpose. The space sufficiently caters for those with accessibility needs and can be quickly transformed into a mainstream luxury accommodation for those who don’t have any access needs.

There’s an abundance of beautiful destinations in the UK, yet the majority are prohibitive for people with a physical impairment. According to Visit England (May 2018), in the last 12 months 430,000 British adults with an impairment did not take a domestic trip due to lack of accessibility provision, equating to a £116.7m opportunity.

Paddy said: “Currently there’s a huge opportunity being missed by providers in the UK leisure market and we have presented a solution to help increase the supply to satisfy the demand and fulfil the need for accessible holiday accommodation.”

Justification for investment goes beyond the numbers, Paddy explains: “We’re trying to open the eyes of business operators about the social responsibility of helping individuals with accessibility needs, as well as having the capability of supporting their friends and family by providing suitable accommodation."

Paddy shares his vision, saying: “I want to shape the future of the domestic market to advocate tourism for everyone and revolutionise the way businesses represent accessibility, from the physical space to customer service, to build an industry-wide approach with more knowledge and understanding about the value of accommodating accessibility needs.”

Becoming paralysed has not tarnished Paddy’s life. He’s a remarkable entrepreneur who is making a constructive impact on the tourism industry and bringing a life-changing solution to so many people that need it, both in the UK and globally.

Published: 26 October 2018

Article by Neina Sheldon
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