Enabling Devices Bookshelf, 2021 Edition

Book shelves image

Read a good book lately?

As 2021 draws to a close, it’s an opportune time to survey the best disability-related books of the year. Here are our top picks for adults, teens and kids.

For Adults

“We’re Not Broken”
By Eric Michael Garcia, Mariner Books, 304 pages
In his fascinating new book, Eric Michael Garcia, a successful journalist who has autism, uses his own experience to shatter myths and shed light on what it’s like to negotiate the world with an autistic brain. As the book’s title implies, people with autism don’t need to be fixed, they need to be accepted.

“Life After Lockdown: Resetting Perceptions of Autism”
By Rebecca Silva and Ruth Prystash, AAPC Publishing, 328 pages
A timely book if there ever was, “Life after Lockdown” includes advice and reflections from mental health professionals and individuals on the autism spectrum about the transition from peak of the COVID-19 pandemic to the post-pandemic environment. With humor and wisdom, this book tackles topics such as returning to school, entering the work force, and regaining social skills.

“About Us: Essays from the Disabilities Series of the New York Times
By Peter Catapano and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Liveright, 320 pages
This collection of essays, based on the New York Times’ groundbreaking disabilities series, challenges assumptions and stereotypes about people with disabilities by providing a platform where they can share their own stories.

“Capable: A Story of Triumph for Children the World Has Judged as Different”
By Deborah Winking PhD, High Expectations Press, 372 pages
“Capable” is a memoir that chronicles one mother’s experience raising a child with a rare genetic disease. Doctors cautioned Winking to have low expectations for her newborn son, but she defied them. Her story will inspire parents of children with disabilities to have hope and determination without glossing over the pain, fear and frustration that comes with caring for child with a serious disability.

For Children

“We Want to Go to School: The Fight for Disability Rights”
By Maryann Cocca-Leffler and Janine Leffler, Albert Whitman & Company, 32 pages
This picture book, co-written by Cocca-Leffler and her daughter Janine Leffler who was born with cerebral palsy, tells the amazing story of how in 1971, a group of seven children with disabilities and their parents sued the Washington D.C. Board of Education. The landmark case Mills v. Board of Education of the District of Columbia led to laws that changed the lives of millions of children and families by ensuring that all children receive a “free and appropriate public education.” (Preschool – grade 3)

“Unstoppable: Women with Disabilities”
By Helen Wolfe with illustrations by Karen Patkou, Second Story Press, 24 pages
This book tells the unbelievable stories of ten women with disabilities who challenge the status quo in their respective fields. Including women and elite sports, architecture, neurosurgery, and environmental activism, this book have strived to make the world a more accessible place for themselves and so many others. (Ages 9-12)

“Show Me a Sign”
By Ann Clare LeZotte, Scholastic Press, Inc., 293 pages
This historical fiction novel explores issues such as racism and bigotry through its protagonist Mary Lambert, an 11-year-old girl who is deaf. Set in Martha’s Vineyard in 1805, “Show Me a Sign” is the winner of the 2021 Schneider Family Book Award for middle grade readers. (Ages 9-12)

 For Young Adults

“This is My Brain in Love”
By I.W. Gregorio, Little Brown and Company, 384 pages
The winner of both this year’s Schneider Family Book Award for teens and the Bank Street best book of the year, “This Is My Brain in Love” is a teenage love story that touches on topics such as mental illness, racism, immigration and self-acceptance. (Ages 12 and up)

Our History of Innovation

3D Printing Photo

It started with a train set, a mercury switch, and a young boy whose therapist thought he couldn’t play with toys.

Steve Kanor

In 1975 my father, Steven Kanor, walked into a room at United Cerebral Palsy/Long Island and saw a young boy sitting in a wheelchair, his head resting on his shoulder. When my dad asked where the toys were, his OT said, “He doesn’t have the motor skills to play with toys, and he can’t lift his head.”

But my father was not interested in what the boy couldn’t do. He was interested in the boy’s possibilities–in his potential.

The next morning, he was back. He’d brought a train set, which he’d connected to a mercury switch. The switch, the first capability switch he’d designed, was attached to the boy’s ear. When the boy raised his head, the switch made contact and the train ran around the tracks. After several weeks of playing with this toy, the boy was holding his head up straight, even when the train was not running.

My father was elated. He loved science and technology. But above all, he loved children. And he never stopped innovating, never stopped trying to make our products better, never stopped designing new devices.

Today, our current design team is just as passionate, just as creative, and just as committed to innovation as the man who founded the company. To that end we have taken a giant leap into the 21st Century.

When I first joined Enabling Devices in 2015, our toys and devices were all either vacuum or injection molded. But always in the back of our minds was the promise of 3D printing. Six years ago, the technology was too slow and too expensive. As is the case with most technologies, though, the machines quickly became cheaper, faster and better. In the summer of 2020, we bought our first 3D printer.

I thought we would just dip our toes into 3D printing. I thought the process of learning and designing for this new technology might be slow. Instead, thanks to the amazing talents and commitment of our production team, we’ve jumped in with both feet.

But what, you might ask, does this mean for you—the end-user, the teacher, the therapist, the parent?

This first thing you might notice is that the 3D products are cleaner, more streamlined and more modern looking. But much more importantly, they simply work better. Because of the precision of 3D printing, the process of assembling each product is more consistent, which leads to devices that activate easily, that work flawlessly. 3D printing also allows us to design and execute product ideas in a way that were simply not possible with the older molding technologies. Product by product we are improving and we hope you will see the difference as soon as these redesigned devices are in your hands. Frankly, we think you are going to love them!

Seth signature

Seth Kanor
President and CEO

Seth Kanor

Enabling Devices’ Workshop – Handmade with Love

Three Enabling Devices employees building new products in our manufacturing facility

Four decades ago when Enabling Devices’ founder, Steven Kanor, began our company (then Toys for Special Children), he had few competitors. In those days, the needs and rights of people with disabilities were not fully recognized. Likewise, their talents, accomplishments and potential to lead meaningful, productive and fulfilling lives were frequently unacknowledged.

In recent years, increased awareness of the capabilities and entitlements of people with disabilities has led to the establishment of more companies serving the special needs community. While the field has become more crowded, we at Enabling Devices maintain that our company — its products, customer service and philosophy — still offers unique advantages to customers.

One of the most significant benefits of Enabling Devices, is the fact that we design and fabricate many of our products in-house at an on-site production facility in Hawthorne, New York. Here’s a look at how we develop the products that enrich your life:

The concept
Product development starts with a concept. It may be a concept introduced by an Enabling Devices’ staff member but often it’s an idea proposed by a special education teacher or a therapist.

The consultation
Over the years, the staff at Enabling Devices has developed strong relationships with the professionals who use our products. They provide invaluable expertise that helps to inform what we create and how we build and adapt the products we sell. Typically, consulting with teachers and therapists is one of the first steps in the product development process.

The brainstorming
After we determine that there is a need for a product, the staff holds a brainstorming session where we exchange ideas about how we can bring that product to fruition. Through the brainstorming process, a design plan is determined. Then, our design and build team headed up by Bill Pedersen heads to the workshop to begin the fabrication process.

The fabrication
Most of Enabling Devices’ products are made by hand using a mold. Once the mold is created, builders set about fitting the product components into the mold and connecting the wiring that makes it work. In-house fabrication sets us apart from many other companies that simply buy and resell products or purchase them overseas. Building our products in our own workshop insures their quality and makes us directly accountable to our customers.

The testing
Our fabricators test and retest every product sample, making changes wherever necessary to make sure they reach the highest standards.

The timeframe
Another advantage to fabricating products in-house, is that they can be taken from the conceptual stage to the production phase quickly. In many cases, new products can be produced in a as little as a few days.

The personal touch
Our staff is personally invested in our products and the impact they have on the lives of our customers. We love our jobs and are grateful for the opportunity to change their lives for the better. To learn more about Enabling Devices’ product design and fabrication process, see our newest video:


Welcome to Our New Website!

For Immediate Release

October 30, 2017

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Bell
914-747-3070 X336 | 800-832-8697

Enabling Devices Launches New Website
State-of-the-art website and online catalog makes shopping easy and customer-friendly

Enabling Devices (formerly Toys for Special Children) is pleased to announce the launch of a new state-of-the-art website and online catalog. The re-designed, mobile-friendly site is accessible, easy to navigate, and features larger, sharper, multifaceted images of products. The new enablingdevices.com is also chock full of resources and multimedia product information and offers consumers a streamlined approach to selecting and ordering products.

Since 1978, Enabling Devices has been creating and adapting toys, tools, devices and assistive technology for children, teens and adults with a variety of disabilities. From the beginning, the company’s primary mission was meeting the needs of its customers and developing products that enrich their lives. Personalized customer service is emblematic of the company’s people-centered approach and Enabling Device’s new website was designed with people in mind.

“In creating our new website, we wanted to feature the people we serve by profiling some of our customers,” says Enabling Devices CEO Seth Kanor. “I wanted the website to show how our products make it possible for people with disabilities to reach their highest potential.”

Enablingdevices.com features clear yet concise product descriptions and online instructional videos that help consumers understand how products work and how they support skill development and learning. Downloadable activity charts and product tips help users to get the most out of the products they buy.

Product comparison charts (also downloadable) help customers identify the products that best meet their needs while online skills charts match products with users based on the skills they seek to develop.

Additionally, enablingdevices.com includes a blog with news and information of interest to members of the disability community, regularly updated lists of the best apps for switch users and people on the autism spectrum, and guidance for creating a sensory space in a home, classroom or office.

“It’s important that we stay close to the people and practitioners who use our products,” says Kanor. “We visit clinics and consult with the therapists who work with people with disabilities so that we can continually improve our products. As always, we welcome customers’ calls and comments, and whenever possible, are happy to provide personalized solutions. With the right tools, people with disabilities are doing great things and finding great joy in their lives. Our mission is to increase their joy as much as possible.”


Happy Independence Day!

Boy with American Flag

At Enabling Devices, we’re all about helping adults and children live and play more independently. To that end, we offer over 800 products that make it possible for people with a range of physical and cognitive disabilities to enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing more for themselves.

Capability Switches
Enabling Devices offers more than 100 different types of capability switches —the widest variety in the marketplace. From our best-selling, ergonomically designed, super-sensitive Plate Switch to our most versatile of switches—the Ultimate Switch—to our high-quality dependable Gumball Switches, capability switches allow people with disabilities to interact with communication devices, therapeutic learning products, computers, appliances and toys!

The ability to express one’s thoughts and feelings and to converse with others is essential to independence. Our enormous selection of communication devices helps people with disabilities to communicate and serve as terrific teaching tools. From basic communicators such as the Big Talk which records and plays back one message to our Talkable II which records two messages and has built-in icon holders, to communicators that grow with the user’s vocabulary such as the 7-Level Communication Builder, there’s a communicator that‘s just right for you, your family member or student.

Adapted Electronics
Being able to access electronics without assistance from others is a critical aspect of independence in today’s automated world. Enabling Devices’ hands-free mouse, wireless switches and adjustable screen styluses, as well as a variety of CD players and boom-boxes, are just some of the tools that promote self-reliance and connection to the world.

iPad Products
iPads have entirely changed the landscape for all of us. For people with disabilities, their impact has been profound. Now, disabilities need not prevent people from accessing music, education, entertainment and an ever-growing choice of apps. See Enabling Devices’ Ideas & Resources page for a comprehensive list of our favorite applications.

Useful Household and Special Devices
These essential tools help people with disabilities to practice activities of daily living such as cooking, gardening, cutting, writing and can opening.

Visually impaired
Our large assortment of products especially for people who are blind or visually impaired enable them to increase their independence. Lightboxes, tactile communicators, toys and switches with bright lights, high contrast and auditory cueing are just some of the items we’ve created and adapted with the goal of enhancing quality of life for people with visual impairment.

Last, but certainly not least, Enabling Devices’ huge selection of adapted toys, mean that children with disabilities can play and learn just like their typically developing peers. Choose from games, plush toys, blocks, puzzles, activity centers, musical instruments and a wide range of multi-sensory toys that promote auditory, visual and tactile stimulation, increase listening skills, encourage music appreciation, and improve fine and gross motor functioning.

How Can We Help?

Three Enabling Devices employees building new products in our manufacturing facility

When Enabling Devices (then Toys for Special Children) was founded in 1978, the idea of adapting and creating toys and other products for people with disabilities was groundbreaking. In the nearly four decades that have elapsed, awareness of the needs of people with disabilities has increased, and the field has become more crowded. Consumers can now access our products or products made by our competitors from a variety of sources. Yet, Enabling Devices still stands out because of our longstanding commitment to providing personal, individualized and customized services to our clients.

Over the years, we have responded to clients’ unique needs by adapting and creating new products especially for them.

One of our most successful customizations was the Tactile Symbol Communicator (#4040). “The mother of a child with visual impairment, and who was also non-verbal, contacted us,” explains Vinny Livoti, Enabling Devices’ technology specialist. “She had developed a series of tactile symbols and wanted to connect those symbols with an AAC device. We worked with her to create a communicator that would incorporate those symbols.” The result? A communicator that helped that customer and so many others!
“It’s always rewarding when we can customize a product and it helps someone,” says Vinny. “We have over 900 products, but every person is different and every disability is also different, so there are always products we haven’t developed yet. It’s a challenge creating things to meet the needs of so many different people and then putting them to the test,” he says.

At Enabling Devices, we’re up for the challenge. It’s what makes our work so satisfying.
Sometimes the customized products don’t work in the first iteration, says Vinny. “But we don’t give up. We work with people until we find a solution that works for the customer.

“We do this for a living, but helping somebody and knowing we’ve changed their life, is a really nice feeling.”

In future blog posts, we will share other stories of Enabling Devices’ efforts to provide personalized services to our customers and people in the disabilities community.

Big Shoes to Fill

Photo of Seth Kanor

It’s been six months since Enabling Devices CEO, Seth Kanor stepped in to take the reins from his late father, Steven E. Kanor, Ph.D., the company’s founder and president. Speaking from the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, N.Y., Kanor took time out from his busy schedule to share some thoughts about his dad, the people who make Enabling Devices run, what he’s learned so far, his aspirations for the company and the people it serves.

What has your new role taught you about your father?

The longer I’ve been at Enabling Devices, the more convinced I am that my father should be nominated for sainthood. I get calls all the time from people who say, “Your dad changed my life.” He was always asking: “How do we get to the people who need our services?”  “How do we improve people’s lives and meet them where they are?” “How do we make it easier for them to get out into the world and help them to find joy?” Everything we do is geared toward answering those questions.

What have you learned about the business?

The people who work here probably have a body of knowledge that couldn’t be replicated in a Ph.D. program. They have been hands-on with our products, customers and business for so long.

Like many people, I always thought that I needed to do something original— something different than what my father did. Now, I see that I am supposed to continue his mission and use my abilities to bring out the talents in others. My role is basically, to facilitate everything so that the people here, who are so knowledgeable and talented, can do what they do so well.
Additionally, I’ve discovered that there is a huge group of people in this country who work one-on-one with children with severe disabilities. This is pretty much the hardest work one can do and they don’t make a great deal of money. It’s a real calling, and I feel so grateful for them.

What is your favorite part of your new role?

It is such a privilege to know that we are making a difference in the lives of the people who use our products. Sometimes people call us looking for a solution to their loved one’s problem and we are their last chance. Being able to help in those instances is so special. When my father was running the business, if a customer called with a problem, he’d invite them into the office.  He’d say, “Come in now, we’ll fix it.” The first time someone called me with a special request, the person apologized.  I said, “Please don’t apologize. I’ve been waiting for this call. It’s an honor to take your call.”

The people I am meeting in my new role are changing my life and my understanding of what matters. Are we going to live in a society that is exclusive or inclusive? In my view, we need to work toward a world that is more inclusive. There’s no question that our customers are giving me more than I am giving them.


Where Words Fail

#2201 Mini Carillion

One day, many many years ago, in a chorus rehearsal at an elementary school in Jackson Heights, Queens, my father was singled out by the teacher. After informing him that he was ‘off-key’, the teacher, told him it would be best if he simply ‘mouthed’ the words during the upcoming recital.

Lesser spirits (mine included) would have crumbled, or at the very least, been silenced. But my earliest memories are of my father piloting the family car, a badly rusted Checker Marathon, through the hilly, winding streets of Hastings while singing songs at the top of his lungs and demanding that I sing along with him.

Many of these songs were off-color. My mother was not pleased.

In addition to “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” his repertoire included such classics as “The First Marine, He Ate The Bean” and “Sailing Over Niagara Falls.”

He seemed not to care how he sounded, or what he sang.

Later, when I was a teenager working in his shop, we listened to Classical music on his transistor radio, though he often told me that he felt everything after Bach was ‘crap.’

Still, I believed music wasn’t that important to him.

It was just something to fill in the background.

Or it was a vehicle for his off-color sense of humor.

He was a man of science. An inventor.

And because we make our enabling devices for the disabled out of the stuff of science–out of microchips and molds; out of relays and resistors–it is easy, sometimes, to forget the arts: to forget music, which comes in “where words fail.”

Just a moment ago I pulled his first catalog from the shelf. Flipping through the pages I found  robots and roller coasters, puppies and pandas, communicators and scanners, but then I noticed something.

The very first items in that first catalog are a music box radio, a music box record player, a music box clock, a carousel record player, a music box mobile, and over half of the items that follow are either musical or  music related.

Though he’d been told to ‘mouth the words’ as a boy in Jackson Heights, he’d never stopped singing.

Somehow, intuitively, he’d understood what the post below, from the Friendship Circle, so elegantly explains.


Breaking Barriers

Photo of man in wheelchair with iPad assistive devices

by Seth Kanor

My father, the founder of Enabling Devices, often likes to say that he’s never been very good at business. Nor does he look much like a businessman.

When he began working with kids who had Cerebral Palsy this was an immediate advantage. Think about it: your muscles sometimes move in spasms independent of your mind’s intent; you might grimace when you mean to smile; you use crutches, or a wheelchair. Sometimes you make strange noises. Some people stare at you; some look away. And then into your life comes this eccentric man.

His hair sticks out to the side like Bozo’s and he is willing to play the clown for you. This is, after all, a man who once won third prize at a Halloween party without bothering to put on a costume. He’ll make silly jokes and silly faces and he’ll do anything he can to make you laugh. He doesn’t care how he looks and he doesn’t care how you look. What you cannot do, or think you cannot do, is not an obstacle in his world. If you have no fine motor control, he’ll give you a big colorful switch the size of a dinner plate. If all you can do is blink your eyes, he will make a eye blink switch for you. If all you can control is your breath, he will make you a sip and puff switch. Where others see disability, he sees possibility.

Whenever we encountered anyone in a wheelchair, or using a cane, or any other kind of assistive device, my father, looking every bit the mad scientist, would approach and ask the same question: “Is that working for you?” And he was so sweetly disarming, and so intent on helping, that I never saw anyone refuse him. Invariably, the assistive device wasn’t meeting that person’s needs. Invariably, my father had an idea for an adjustment, a modification, or an improvement.

But just as importantly, he was seeing through the disability to the human being; and it is in this spirit that I’d like to share an article that I came across while reading ‘Red Stick Moms Blog.’

It’s by an woman named Katie Corken. It’s called “What’s Wrong With Him.”
I think it’s a brilliant and profound piece.

Please click below.



Three Generations of Toy-makers

Photo of Steve Kanor with child

by Seth Kanor


In winter of 1946, my grandfather locked the front door to his Times Square factory—this was when there was still manufacturing in Times Square—and went trudging through the snow to buy my father a toy train set for his tenth birthday. But when he finally arrived at Macy’s, and stood surrounded by Lionels and American Flyers, he noticed that something was missing. There were no bridges.

Good with his hands and quick on his feet, my grandfather hurried back to his factory and fabricated one of his own. An hour later he returned to the department store with a prototype and the Junior Bridge Company was born.

The Young Inventor

My father had higher goals. He wanted to cure cancer. In tenth grade he was invited to The American Institute’s Science Fair which was being held at Brooklyn Technical High School. His project was called: ‘Three Aspects of Cancer: Clinical, Cellular, Molecular.’ He won first prize. Toy trains were left behind. But not his sense of wonder, of discovery, of play. He kept inventing, learning, seeking.

He went to medical school and spent the 1960’s working at Albert Einstein, at Sloan Kettering, and at Columbia as a medical engineer and cancer researcher. He worked on tumor dissagregation, fetal monitors, and fibrinolyitic studies. But during a visit to the United Cerebral Palsy center he noticed that something was missing.

The children had no toys. No toys they could play with. And for my father, nothing was more important than play. It was how he learned, how he designed, and how he lived; and he did not want to see those with special needs locked out of something he considered so essential.

The Santa Claus of Southside

In 1978, on the corner of Spring Street and Southside in the village of Hastings, New York, my father, Steven Kanor, opened small shop and he began designing and manufacturing toys for children with special needs. How he managed to cram all of his heavy machinery into six hundred square feet was a mystery to me, but so were the toys he made that could be activated by the nod of a head, or the blink of an eye, or just a puff of air.

The shop was called Toys For Special Children. By then he had grown a beard and a local newspaper had called him “Santa Claus for the handicapped.”

Like his father, he had become a toy-maker. At that time, I was fifteen-years-old and his only employee. He taught me how to work the lathe, the molding machine, the bandsaw, and jigsaw. Working side-by-side with him, I witnessed, first hand, his ingenuity, his creativity, and his seemingly endless knowledge of all things mechanical, medical and electrical. But I wanted to do other things. And I did.

The Prodigal Son

I studied jazz guitar at Berklee School of Music, I drove a cab, I got an MFA in acting from NYU, I tended bar, I ran a restaurant, I wrote a book. And then somehow, through something in the DNA passed down through my grandfather the bridge maker, or through a simple twist of fate, I ended up working at his company.

The little shop was bigger and there were more employees. It now made enabling devices for people of all ages and with differing needs. But what had not changed was the scope of my father’s lifelong mission: his deep devotion to serving others, his desire to uncover the unique creativity that lies in every human being, and his insistence that each individual, no matter how severe his or her disability, matters and has potential. And as I sat with each employee in my first two weeks back in my father’s shop, as I listened to them talk about their work, I was humbled by their commitment to his mission and inspired to be a part of it once again.

The Circle

And so now I’d like to continue to immerse myself back in this world by listening to anyone who is involved in the special needs community in any way: parents, children, therapists, teachers, friends, anyone. And I’d like to use this space as a forum for sharing other relevant blogs, for sharing information, and for finding out in what ways Enabling Devices can better serve the community at large.

If you’d like to know more about what we do you can visit our website, but I think that the clip below says it all: It’s a video of my father and a little girl playing together with one of his adapted toys.

Looking forward to hearing from all of you,