The toys that are currently available for loan are listed on the ATRC website. Check here often for the latest toys.
The has a two-fold purpose:
- Making accessible toys available to disabled children. We estimate that there is a need for at least ten-thousand accessible toys in the State of Hawaii.
- Learning how to modify electronic toys to make them accessible for disabled children provides a perfect vehicle for introducing high school students to electronics and computer programming. It also introduces them to a wide range of human/computer interaction challenges.
Modifying a toy
The toys you will modify in this exercise are similar to the simple circuit you have just constructed. As noted in the following section, not all toys are this simple, however, and it is becoming increasingly complicated to modify toys to make them accessible.
There are different types of smart toy:
- Some toys have a single on-off switch - you turn it on and it does something, you turn it off and it stops doing it. These toys are easily modified with a small device called a power interrupter that slips in between two of the batteries in the battery holder.
- Most electronic toys that are now available have an on-off switch that merely turns the toy on or off. To make the toy actually do something, it is necessary to touch one or more switches, or activate sensors, that are embedded in different parts of the toy. It is much more difficult to modify these toys to make them accessible for children with disabilities. The switches that trigger actions must be located and the wires that connect them to the control electronics must be exposed so that external switches can be connected in parallel with the existing switches. It is necessary for the person who designs the modifications to understand how the circuits operate because incorrectly connected switches can easily destroy the electronics in a toy.
- Some toys have a wireless remote control unit similar to the ones used with a TV. It may be easier to make the remote control accessible rather than modifying the toy.
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Toys are designed to be kid-proof
- Kid-proof toys are difficult/impossible to dismantle without causing damage. Anything you do to get at the internal wires and components must be reversible.
- The toy must be kid-proof when you have completed the modification. For example, there must not be any sharp or dangerous components accessible to the child and there mustn't be anything that the child could pull off and swallow.
Donated toys may be broken in some way when you receive them
- Before looking at how to make a toy accessible, it is essential that you test all of its normal functions. If there are faults, you must determine whether the faults can be fixed. In some cases, there may be enough other interesting functions that it is not necessary to fix the fault.
- If the faults are not fixable, it is often worthwhile to cannibalize the toy to get parts for fixing other toys. It is also very instructive to pull a toy apart completely to increase your understanding of how it works. This will give you ideas about how to make other toys more accessible.
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Planning your work
It is essential that you plan your modification on paper before doing anything to the toy.
- Sketch out the toy showing how the various actions are triggered and how they are actually performed.
- Identify all switches and their particular function.
- Decide which actions you want make accessible to a disabled user.
- Figure out what modifications will be necessary to make the toy accessible
- Decide whether it is practical to make the necessary modifications.
- Decide whether you want to go any further. An inaccessible toy that still functions is more useful than one that no longer does anything due to an unsuccessful modification.
- If you decide to go ahead with the modification, draw out exactly what needs to be done showing all existing wires and components to which you plan to make connections and all additional wires, connectors and switches. Show the colors of all wires that you will connect to or add.
- Sketch the physical locations of the parts you plan on adding.
- Select the components that you will use to make the modification. Make sure the components will fit into the desired location when the toy is reassembled.
- Double-check all of the details before making any physical changes to the toy.
- Remove the batteries from the toy while you work on it in case an accidental short burns up part of the circuit.
- Make your modifications incrementally. For example, insert the connection for one switch and test its operation before going on to the next switch. It is often very difficult to find faults when you make several changes at the same time.
- If you make changes to the circuit, as you find and fix faults, modify your drawings to show the changes.
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