At the TCAT Hack for Access: Holiday Toy Event on Sunday December 11, volunteers from UW and the Seattle community adapted toys for children with disabilities – just in time for the holidays! Approximately 50 volunteers from UW and the community – including children with disabilities and their families and self-identified “hackers” (people who enjoy tinkering or building things as a hobby or profession) – adapted 30 toys at the event. The event was featured on Seattle’s KING 5 News.
The event was led by the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology (TCAT) in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering, Bioengineering Outreach and the Ability & Innovation Lab in Mechanical Engineering.
The Holiday Toy Hack was supported by an AccessEngineering minigrant to Dr. Dianne Hendricks and Molly Mollica of Bioengineering; Dr. Anat Caspi, director of TCAT; and Dr. Heather Feldner of Mechanical Engineering. Collaboration among these departments will continue with the launch of HuskyADAPT (Accessible Design and Play Technologies), an initiative that will provide College of Engineering students the opportunity to create accessible and affordable assistive technology.
Toy adaptation involves modifying a toy to enhance the user’s experience. At the Holiday Toy Hack, volunteers added a universal switch to each toy so that a child can activate and play with the toy using his or her unique abilities. For example, instead of pushing a small button to activate a toy, a child can activate the toy by tilting their head, pulling on a string or pushing a large button.
Adapting toys is important because play is crucial for cognitive and social development, as it teaches children simple concepts such as cause and effect and provides an opportunity for children to interact with their peers and the environment. Toy adaptation is an example of universal design in engineering, which is the design of products and environments for all people.