Students in Spokane Learn to Make Inclusive Toys

Blog: Students in Spokane Learn to Make Inclusive Toys!

We always knew that our founder Steven Kanor was way ahead of his time. When he established Enabling Devices (then called Toys for Special Children) in 1978, virtually no one was thinking about making toys for children with disabilities.

Thankfully, awareness of the needs of people with disabilities has increased since the late 1970s. Nowadays, some colleges and universities are teaching universal design techniques that will help tomorrow’s graduates create products and environments that are accessible for people of all abilities.

One example of this trend can be found at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. At Whitworth, physical therapy and engineering students have been collaborating on a project to design inclusive toys for the disabled children who receive services at the university’s physical therapy clinic.

Using stipulations from physical therapy students, the engineering students designed a prototype for an electronic toy car. The car was designed with the needs of a toddler — who used prosthetics below the elbows on both arms – in mind.

According to Amanda Sullender of The Spokesman-Review, the engineering class was divided into two teams. “Half the class developed an electric toy car whose controller could be used by the child with their prosthetic, while the other team built the toy to be functional without the use of a prosthetic. One group’s remote used cups placed on joysticks where arms can be placed and moved to maneuver the electric car. The remote is also held up by a harness mounted to the body. The other group’s controller was modified to be controlled by a prosthetic without the dexterity of fingers.”

While the designs aren’t ready for prime time, the plan is for future classes to improve upon them until they can safely be used by clinic patients.

The students’ professor David Schipf hopes the project will lead to the establishment of an inclusive toy lab at the university.

“The end goal is for the physical therapy department to be able to bring local children into their clinic and have these children engage in normal play with these inclusive toys. … God gives us all different skills and opportunities in life. And I think it’s important for these students to learn while they’re in school that they’re given a great opportunity to get an engineering degree with these skills that can be used to help a lot of people.”

Photo credit: Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review