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Paulina and Her Friends

Paulina is a lively ball of energy.  She is curious, has an infectious laugh, and until now, has experienced her classroom surroundings only while sitting in a wheelchair.  Her teachers were longing to get Paulina and her fellow students out of their wheelchairs and into equipment that could support their frames and allow them to relate to each other on a more personal level.  Paulina’s teachers wanted her and her classmates to experience the joy of playing, learning, and participating in group activities on the classroom floor.

The design team at Adaptive Design met with Paulina’s teachers and took on the challenge of creating an innovative floor-sitting design. Their goal was to create equipment that was inexpensive, portable, and comfortable.  “We had an idea of what might work,” Said Eric Gottshall, who works alongside fellow designer Adam El Sawaf.  “We tried several ideas and settled on a chair made of cardboard that is basically two triangles.  We quickly realized that the design would work well, but each chair would have to be fitted for the frames of each student.  There simply could not be a one-size-fits-all design.”

Eric and Adam got help building the chairs from students in the Made to Learn program.  “We regularly share our workshop with students from a public school nearby.  The students have their own personal disabilities but have a desire to help us out and build equipment to help others.  They work with us once a week.”  Said Eric.  The first two chairs were completed, and it was time to see if the design was going to work. The design team went to Paulina’s classroom, and one of her teachers gently placed Paulina in the bright blue chair.  “Paulina lit up with a huge smile as soon as she was placed in the chair.” Said Eric.  She was able to feel the floor with her feet and hands and experience her surroundings in a whole new way.  our team effort paid off!”

It turns out that the double triangle chair is a winning design.  Not only was the floor sitter innovative, but the District 75 student team won international recognition through University College London’s Making Good Prize. This month,  a representative from ADA and a teacher from the school where Made to Learn is located will travel to London to accept an award from MakingSpaces, an international organization dedicated to developing and sharing inclusive practices in maker spaces and workshops.  The idea is to share ADA’s successful program with workshops all over the world.

Paulina is happy about the international notoriety of her chair, but mostly she is happy to have a snazzy blue chair that allows her to comfortably sit with her fellow classmates.

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