2.8 million children in the US have a special need. 89% of these kids have a sibling and 67% regularly attend school, so most of these kids spend the majority of the time with other children. However, there is a divide in the toy market: many toys today lack accessibility, educational value, and material honesty, especially for kids with special needs. Yet, toys in the special needs market often highlight disabilities, creating a stigma of being different or sick. No child should have to feel that way. We have designed a toy that benefits ALL children, by keeping in mind the needs of those who are visually impaired and have physical impairments. Our toy is called the O-Rings: a full-body, sensory toy for kids of all abilities. The toy is a set of 4 stackable rings, with each ring differing in size, weight, density, texture, and color. They can be used for seating, building, exploration, and therapy, for sensory stimulation, gross motor activities, and spatial reasoning. Adults can play too and suggest prompts, whether you’re a parent, teacher, or physical therapist. The O-Rings become more than just a toy or game--they are sensory learning playthings that foster developmental skills for all kids, with and without special needs. We have interviewed, designed, and tested with kids, parents, teachers, and PT/OT therapists to create production quality prototypes, and we’ve had very positive responses. With the goal of bringing the O-Rings to market, we’ve established relationships with manufacturers and we are preparing for a Kickstarter campaign. In Providence, we’ve worked extensively with Meeting Street School, who have been a major inspiration for us by fostering inclusion in all they do. We have seen the amazing benefit they have had on kids, families, communities, and the culture of learning in Rhode Island. We strive to create products that have a similar impact, and we believe in bringing inclusive play and accessibility into the heart of the massive toy market.
Funded by Boston, MA (February 2014)