A groundbreaking program at children with disabilities, providing them with specially designed chairs that offer newfound mobility and independence.is creating waves of change for young
Volunteers at the university dedicate their time and skills to building the chairs with the help oftechnology. They have built 15 chairs this year.
“It’s very grounding,” said Alyssa Bockman, a Tulane senior who is part of the team that builds the chairs. “You can…make such a huge impact on a child with only a couple hours of effort.”
The chair design is simple yet effective, combining wooden bases and wheels with 3D-printed plastic attachments, all assembled by hand in child-friendly, bright colors. As each chair is personalized and signed by its makers, they carry messages of love and care from their creators to their young users.
The man at the front of the creation is Noam Platt, an architect in New Orleans who discovered the chair’s design on an Israeli website — Tikkun Olam Makers — that lists open-source information for developers like him. His organization, Make Good, which focuses on devices that people can’t find in the commercial market or can’t afford, partnered with Tulane to make the chairs for children.
“Part of it is really empowering the clinicians to understand that we can go beyond what’s commercially available,” Platt said. “We can really create almost anything.”
Jaxon Fabregas, a 4-year-old from Covington, Louisiana, is among the children who received a chair. He is living with a developmental delay and dystonia, which affects his muscles. Jaxon’s parents, Elizabeth and Brian Fabregas, bought him the unique wheelchair, which allowed him to sit up independently. Before he received the chair, he was not mobile.
“I mean it does help kids and it’s helped Jaxon, you know, become more mobile and be able to be adapting to the other things,” said Brian Fabregas.
Another child, Sebastian Grant, who was born prematurely and spent months in the neonatal ICU, received a customized chair that could support his ventilator and tubes. The chair allowed him to sit upright for the first time in his life.
“This is a chair that he could be in and go around the house…actually be in control of himself a little bit,” said Michael Grant, Sebastian’s father.
Aside from the functionality, the chairs are also cost-effective. According to Platt, each chair costs under $200 to build — a fraction of the $1,000 to $10,000 that a traditional wheelchair for small children might cost.