Disability Innovations is a blog series that gathers some of the most interesting new products and services that aim to make disabled people’s lives easier. We hope it will inspire more innovation in the disability field.
What is Go Baby Go?
GoBabyGo is a project which transforms off the shelf electric children’s toy cars into accessible masterpieces – think pretty pink Barbie electric cars or miniature Lightning McQueen’s with switches and body support. Rather than parents purchasing expensive accessible vehicles or wheelchairs, GoBabyGo provides the know-how for people to adapt off the shelf cars at a much lower cost. Their guide takes you through step by step modifications for electrical and body support design elements.
Dr Cole Galloway, creator of GoBabyGo said “Interacting with kids and adults out in the world and gaining a little independence are crucial to early development,” Plus, these cars help kids feel included, “the disability no longer causes them to miss out on playtime or making friends—now they are able to participate. Other kids see the girl in the Barbie car and say, ‘Wow, can I play with you?'”
What’s the story behind it?
Launched in 2006, GoBabyGo is a collaboration by Cole and Dr Sunil Agrawal from the University of Delaware in the USA. As part of their research around mobility for disabled children, they started adapting ride-on cars and they are using their work to enable people to adapt ride-on cars for children in their communities.
The idea came to Cole while working on a high-end robot for movement-impaired children. “It occurred to me that a solution doesn’t always need to be sophisticated to work well,” Cole says. “It can be simple, like a toy.”
How does it work?
As Cole says “Fun is key here—it unlocks brain development and exploratory drive for the child, and ignites active, engaged play with adults and peers. When your main goal is mobility and socialization of young children and their families, you can’t ask for better collaborators than Barbie and Mater [Lightening McQueens best friend in Cars].”
Cole started modifying toy vehicles, which cost around £95 ($150), to suit each child’s specific needs—moving the go pedal to the steering wheel as a switch or adding a head brace for neck support. The adaptations can cost less than £65 ($100) in parts, and can be done easily at home, making it a much more affordable option than specialist wheelchairs. “Paediatric power chairs cost around $25,000 (£16,000) and can weigh up to 150 pounds or 68 kilos,” Cole explains. “Not only are these cars more affordable and relatively easy to adapt, they’re also portable, so parents can take it to the playground or park.”
Although Cole and his volunteers have adapted many toy cars themselves (and host free workshops across the U.S.) their free online guide means parents and clinicians can now adapt the vehicles themselves.
What is the potential?
Because the GoBabyGo team don’t generally do adaptations themselves, there is no limit to the number of people that could benefit. The GoBabyGo website includes a number of contacts across the USA and internationally (at time of writing including Brazil, Spain, Canada, Poland and Israel) who can help guide people taking on a GoBabyGo project for the first time. So far there are no contacts in the UK, but we hope it’s only a matter of time.
Meanwhile, the team is not resting on its laurels and has already started looking at some really interesting new projects including developing kid-friendly exoskeletons to promote upper-body movement and a harness system to provide partial body-weight support.
What we like about it
Clearly the users of this product love it. One parent commented to Cole that “In two years, I’ve never seen my daughter this happy. Please don’t ever stop doing this.”
We think GoBabyGo is really exciting because they’ve broken down adaptations and made it simple for people to create an accessible option for disabled children that support their independence at a more affordable price. Plus it looks really cool!
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