The Short of It
University of Delaware physical therapy professor and infant behavior expert, Cole Galloway, has come up with a fun, functional alternative to wheelchairs for disabled kids. And it was all inspired by a single trip to Toys 'R' Us.
Galloway's mission to help kids with physical disabilities move around and explore their surroundings more easily began as a cooperative project with a mechanical engineering professor, who worked with small robots. But their early vehicles weighed more than 100 pounds and cost thousands of dollars, which made them out of reach for many families.
Then a trip to Toys 'R' Us gave Galloway an idea: what if, instead of heavy, expensive robots, he created a way for babies to drive simple ride-on cars? That way, even very young disabled kids would have the means to move around on their own, before they were big enough to fit in electric wheelchairs. They'd also be given a chance to explore the world around them and hit the same kinds of developmental milestones as their able-bodied peers.
That's when he invented Go Baby Go, a program that retrofits toy cars to accommodate disabled children by using simple tools, like PVC pipe, a foam kick board, and a drill, at a very reasonable cost. He said the cars are about $100 and the materials are $100. To date, Go Baby Go has retrofitted about 100 toy cars. But this is a small drop in a big pond, given half a million U.S. children younger than 5 years old have mobility issues. So, Galloway has started hosting workshops around the country and sending instruction manuals to parents, so they can construct them on their own.
"We provide very basic YouTube videos that parents and clinicians can view," Galloway says. "They can build a car off of them; combine that with the manual that we send out; have an electrical or mechanical engineer come by and certify it; you're ready to go."
Watching the video above of kids trying out their specially fitted vehicles is truly inspirational. They're clearly so thrilled to be able to move around independently. What's even more impressive is that many of the cars are custom fitted to offer physical therapies to the kids, such as elements to improve head movement and leg strength. But what is most touching is seeing these disabled kids playing with their able-bodied peers as if nothing is different between them, because now they can keep up with other kids, instead of getting left behind.
If you want to learn how to create a toy vehicle for a physically impaired child, or for more information on starting a program in your area, visit Go Baby Go's website.