by Jennifer Sheran
10 October 2019

Even though some 25 million children are born each year with hearing impairments, vision impairments, physical impairments, or cognitive limitations, parents of babies with special needs often play a guessing game when it comes to choosing the toys for their child.

Accessible and universal design features are not considered in current methods of baby toy design and information on how products address or assist with common impairments is missing from most packaging. It is frustrating and confusing for parents and loved ones to choose the best toys for their child’s abilities and development. 

Kids2 is invested in helping parents of all children achieve tiny wins through play. To help address this gap in the marketplace, Kids2 is participating as a sponsor of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Capstone Design project to influence the next generation of product designers and engineers to develop accessibility-friendly toys concepts.

“Kids2 has a moral duty to address this important topic of accessibility and deliver a strong point of view in the design community on this subject,” said Franco Lodato, Kids II senior vice president of Global Design & Innovation. “We partnered with Georgia Tech because they have immense knowledge in this domain.”

Since the fall semester 2018, Kids2 team members have provided expertise and support to students in three Capstone classes. The Capstone Design project provides participating Georgia Tech students the opportunity to work with real-world, open-ended, interdisciplinary challenges proposed by industrial and research project sponsors. They learn and apply the engineering design process: defining functional requirements, conceptualization, analysis, identifying risks and countermeasures, selection, and physical prototyping. At the end of each semester, students showcase their efforts at the “Capstone Design Expo” where they display and pitch their inventions and marketability to a panel of judges. 

The Kids2 Capstone Team Takes the Accessibility-friendly Oball Design to a New Level

The fall semester 2018 class zeroed in on developing new concepts based on dexterity driven patterns and accessibility-friendly structures that make it easier for children to grip.

Based on research through consultations with the Kids2 global design and innovation team, focus groups with moms and babies, and interviewing the team at Lekotech, a Georgia non-profit that adapts toys for kids with challenges, the team designed a new concept for accessibility-friendly gameplay.

The team used insights about compensating behaviors of accessibility-limited children to create a multi-sensory toy that aids in development and offers a more comprehensive, well-rounded experience for all children.

“Generally, children begin to compensate for impairments over time,” said Lodato. “For example, a child who has a hearing impairment may learn to “hear” through other senses such as seeing lights that correspond to a music beat and feeling the music vibrations. This universal approach to design also benefits non-accessibility-limited children who enjoy an enhanced experience by also feeling and seeing the beat.”

The following semester, the next class expanded on the first idea. Based on feedback from parents and child observation, the new team decided to focus on low-tech options and add characterization to give the balls more meaning and reasons to interact for younger children. The team tested additional methods of connecting the balls as well as accessories to enhance play value.

Just Beginning

The Kids2 projects are a sought-after class among the Georgia Tech Capstone students. The students on the Kids2 teams have praised the partnership. In fact, one student signed up to take the course twice so he could continue to work with Kids2 again.

Georgia Tech Professor Dr. Stephen Sprigle said the Kids2 program gave the students “unparalleled exposure to the multi-functional aspects of product development.”

The fall 2018 team even won the top prize for their division at the school-wide Capstone Showcase. Kids2 is looking forward to continuing this sponsorship in 2020.

Kids2 is a global company that designs solutions to help early-stage parents and families create tiny wins that build bright futures. The Kids2 brand portfolio includes the leading infant, baby, and toddler brands Baby Einstein®, Bright Starts®, and Ingenuity®. Headquartered in Atlanta, Kids2 spans globally with 12 offices on four continents serving customers in more than 90 countries and has been inventing and reinventing baby products for 50 years. Led by CEO Ryan Gunnigle, it operates with an agile start-up approach, which fosters the company’s growing success.