Play is developmentally important, but children with special needs often cannot engage with a toy as it was originally designed. UW students are making toys more accessible by adding a universal switch such that instead of squeezing a small button as the toy was originally designed, an alternative movement can activate the toy. Some example alternative activations include pushing a large button, tilting of the head, and movement of one finger.

A toy adaptation event, led by a Bioengineering Ph.D. student, Molly Mollica was held Oct. 27, was attended by 30 students, who and adapted 10 toys. These toys will be donated to schools in the Seattle area. These efforts are a part of a new UW organization called HuskyADAPT (Accessible Design and Play Technology) that seeks to foster an inclusive, sustainable, and multidisciplinary community supporting accessible design and play.

In addition to toy adaptation events, Bioengineering students are also engaged in accessible play through service teams. One Bioengineering Honors team, composed of Rachel Straugn, Eliot Sosin and Annapurni Sriram, and mentored by BioE Lecturer Dianne Hendricks, is researching adapted toy libraries and how they function.

An adapted toy library is similar to a standard, book-focused library but allow for families to check out adapted toys, increasing access and affordably of these developmentally important tools. Although dozens of adapted toy libraries exist and are registered with the USA Toy Library Association across the country, more than 20 states have zero registered libraries – and Washington is one of these states. This team seeks to address this limited access by understanding the best practices of adaptive toy libraries such that they can be mimicked in the Seattle area.

Another Bioengineering Honors team, composed of undergraduate seniors Harrison Hiraki, Lauren Mayeda and Brittni Burgess, also mentored by Dr. Hendricks, is focused on outreach to K-12 students. This team hopes to teach others about the importance of accessible play as well as help these students see the benefit that engineers can have on their community.

Learn more about HuskyADAPT on their website. HuskyADAPT is a collaboration of Bioengineering Outreach, the Ability and Innovation Lab and the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology. Toy adaptation events are funded by the Husky Seed Fund.