Adaptive PE teacher invents assistive device for children in the playground

As part of their October Bay Area Proud feature, NBC Bay Area News highlighted a teacher who is working to advance the disability rights movement through improving playground accessibility. Melissa Abadia is an Adaptive Physical Education Specialist who had an idea for an assistive device for children who use wheelchairs after she witnessed their exclusion from common playground activities, like kick-ball.

She calls the device the “Kicker Helper.” Its purpose is to enable children who use wheelchairs to play with children who do not use wheelchairs during recess games such as hockey, kickball, or other kicking-games. The Kicker Helper attaches to a wheelchair and imitates a leg delivering a kick. It is triggered by either a lever or a button that the child controls.

Unfortunately, Abadia did not possess the engineering or technical skills to build the device as she fully imagined it. After contacting different universities and engineering projects to no avail, Abadia found Sam Lammott of the San Francisco based TechShop. Working together, the two were able to create the original Kicker Helper. According to Abadia, “[The kids] deserve to do things independently, and to have success, and to feel part of the group.” As the NBC journalists point out, the Kicker Helper allows kids with disabilities to interact deliberately with the other children in the school.

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Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.