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Tools You Can Use series: Modified Power Wheels Cars for Toddlers with Disabilities

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Modified Power Wheels Cars, Mini Fleet 1

As a former disabled child, I am very adamant about ensuring that our disabled children and teens receive the best healthcare, education, and support system in order to grow and prosper in their environment as beautiful human beings.  For our youngest disabled children, assistive devices that would afford them the opportunity to gain independence by moving freely in their homes is a considerable and serious gap that exists for them.  The University of Delaware and Fisher-Price aim to change that by offering affordable, adapted Power Wheels cars to our disabled kids who cannot afford to be slowed down by their disability.

Why This Level of Independence is Imperative for Our Disabled Toddlers:

For children under the age of three, there are no wheelchairs currently available on the market that would allow them to move about independently.  This lack of innovation unfairly keeps our children stationary, and hinders their growth development.  A child who has limited mobility should not be stifled in their desire to explore and play in their environments – they should have the ability to roam about and get into any and everything not nailed down, as other toddlers their age.  Waiting until a child is three years old and/or possesses the ability to maneuver a wheelchair is too long for their cognitive, motor, social, and language development to remain static.  We cannot continue to cause our disabled children to lag behind in their growth as curious, exploratory beings.

The Idea Behind Modified Power Wheels Cars:

In 2011, Go Baby Go was created by University of Delaware’s pediatric researcher Dr. Cole Galloway to narrow this independence gap for our disabled tykes.  The goal was to develop modifications that families of disabled children could purchase at affordable prices, and make adjusts on their own.

Since its creation, there are currently 40 international Go Baby Go sites available to provide these cars to and modify them for families.  Through the project, over 500 cars have been modified and made available to families, and 500 more have been acquired through groups that were inspired to make this product available after learning about it either online or by word-of-mouth.

How These Modified Power Wheels Cars Are Adapted:

The Power Wheels cars are rewired to add on/off switches, and the steering wheels have large buttons on them that allows the child to activate the car and make it move the way they like.  The PVC pipes and pool toys, the popular foam kickboards and water noodles, are added onto the cars to support the kids while “driving.”  Kids are secured in the driver’s seat of their cars with Velcro straps and seat belt buckles as they zoom around (safety first before we let them go loose).

These modified cars are incredibly affordable for most families – it costs approximately $200 to purchase and adapt each car to a child’s needs.  In comparison to the $1,000+ price tag for some of the “cheaper” wheelchairs on the market, these cars can fit into the budgets of most families in need of them.  In reality, the prices of these cars cannot compare to the invaluable reality they offer children who use them – their freedom and independence.

Why Modified Power Wheels Cars are Highlighted in the TYCU Series:

This series aims to uncover and share innovative technologies, products, and services that enhance the quality of life and uplift those with disabilities.  Most individuals are unaware of the lack of assistive devices for young disabled children, and creating awareness about such a wonderful product like modified Power Wheels cars fits into the focus of the series.  I know that there are a number of families of young children with disabilities who feel overwhelmed in trying to figure out what resources, products, and services that exist that could benefit their little one, and navigating the mounds of information to find the most appropriate tools is a tiring task, especially if you are doing it alone.  This kind of modification will open so many doors for children and their families, and if one family is able to utilize this product through reading this article, then the TYCU series has fulfilled its purpose.

Final Thoughts:

I urge each and every one one of you to pass this along to parents/guardians, helping professionals, and others who could benefit from knowing about modified Power Wheels cars – our disabled children need to obtain to this tool so that they can access the world around them without limits.

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of UD Go Baby Go via its Facebook page.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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