Tag Archives: toys

Disability Innovations: Pimp my accessible ride- GoBabyGo

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!

Learn more about the great program.

This blog is for information only. Scope does not endorse this product or service. We try to make sure our information is up to date and accurate at the time of publishing.

To tell us about a Disability Innovation you’ve seen, please email innovation@scope.org.uk.

The best toy we ever bought

Guest post from Rose-tinted World – a parent of a family affected by Irlen syndrome and dyspraxia. She blogs to raise awareness of these condition and to share information with others affected.

The best toy we ever bought is also the simplest. At first glance you might even struggle to see that it is a toy at all. The toy that has helped my children so much is an unassuming, plain and empty black tray.

The tray itself fits easily on top of my children’s small playroom table and can be easily stored behind a cupboard when not in use. However, this amazing toy has rarely been away in the five years we’ve had it.

Irlen syndrome and specific learning difficulties

Both my children experience symptoms of Irlen syndrome. This is clearest in my seven-year old daughter who experiences discomfort when reading and writing. She is a reluctant writer who will use the minimum of text to finish any task that she cannot avoid by other means.

What this toy has allowed my children to do is to develop their understanding of narrative form throughout their childhoods. This would be good for any child, but for a child with a specific learning difficulty this can be essential.

The empty black tray has been many things over the years; a seascape, a farm, a zoo, a pre-historic scene and even space-world. The tray can be made into anything the children imagine it to be: Sometimes scientific, sometimes fantastic and on occasion downright absurd. Most ‘worlds’ are created out of the children’s existing toys and require no expenditure or trips to the shops.

Creating worlds and storytelling

What the creation of worlds enables children to do is to build up stories using the building blocks of storytelling. First there is a setting (ocean with shells and sand, farm with trees and fields, pre-history with rocks and stones, space represented by shiny aluminium foil). Next the child can add features which denote this setting (boats, barns, fir trees, rocket) and then finally the child can add the ‘subjects’ of their story or inhabitants of their world (pirates or fish, famers and cows, dinosaurs, astronauts or aliens).

By building up this world the child is creating the story of this world and its inhabitants. This is a tangible version of the process children undertake when writing a narrative (‘On a dusty lunar surface a rocket stands surrounded by aliens. An astronaut peers out of the window…).

The child can also create their world starting from the ‘subject’ of their story by then building the environment around their main character (‘The farmer wakes up, walks to his tractor and drives over to milk the cows’).

Once the world is created then the scene is set for the story to develop any way the child’s imagination chooses it to. Moving the characters around to interact with their environment allows a child to build up more sophisticated plot and narrative. Long storylines can be developed which would simply be impossible if the child were reliant on their ability to write.

This can free a child up to experience the joy of storytelling and plot creation. My daughter used to cry if I asked her to write a sentence. She quickly became frustrated and uncomfortable when confronted with a blank page of white paper. This same child could create a world of fairies that would occupy her and her brother for two hours.

Developing narrative skills

What our empty black box has done is to enable both of my children to develop their narrative skills in a fun and meaningful way. Yes, it has taken them both longer to build up the writing skills to do this on paper. Fortunately, their language skills were already developed, simply waiting for their writing ability to catch up. This has prevented them from falling behind too far and has ensured they are growing up with a love of language in all its many and beautiful forms. This allows them to transcend their frustrations and discomfort they associate with pens and paper. It enables them to flourish and evolve into not only confident and happy storytellers but also into the potential natural historians, physicists and anthropologists of the future.

Our square tray measures 60cm x 60cm and it 7 cm deep. We bought ours five years ago from Hope Education.

This comes as a ‘Creation Station’ on sale for £6.59. This can be bought from Hope Education with along with a number of ‘mats’ with the base of different scenes designed on them.

Before we had our wonderful empty box, we cleared a shelf on a secure bookcase. This shelf was at the children’s height and they used to create ‘scenes’ on it.

Regular stars of ‘scenes’ and ‘worlds’ are dinosaurs; farm animals, zoo/safari animals, fairies, dolls house families, ocean animals/fish, aliens, insect and dragons. Props include cars, dolls house furniture, bath toys including boats, rocks, shells, miniature farm buildings, rockets and lunar craft. All of these come from my children’s own toy boxes.