Inspired By One Girl, Two Designing Women Set Out To Make Toys More Inclusive For All Kids

May 13, 2014 by
Maeve_Cynthia
Consumer GoodsDesignEducationEntrepreneurship

Meet Maeve Jopson and Cynthia Poon, the WYSKy duo of industrial designers behind Increment, a company dedicated to making toys more inclusive for all kids, regardless of age or ability. Their very first plaything is the O-Rings, a full body sensory learning toy that was inspired by a little girl named Megan, and designed to include the needs of children with visual impairment.

The friends turned co-founders began designing accessible toys during their senior year at Rhode Island School of Design. Maeve and Cynthia collaborated on their degree project, which focused on designing toys for inclusive play. Their goal was to bring children with and without disabilities together and promote open-ended and social play.

Cynthia shared, “We worked with educators, specialists, parents, and kids, to understand what unmet needs existed for children both in play and development.” She added, “We discovered that many toys and tools have to be adapted to be used by a child with disabilities, and saw an opportunity to create a product that could fulfill many roles in many environments.”

O-rings_Megan

Along the way, they met Megan, the little girl who became their inspiration. Megan is blind and has other impairments including low muscle control, which severely affects her balance. Her parents told Maeve and Cynthia that she didn’t like many toys, and her teachers said that it was difficult to find toys that Megan could use with her friends.

“They challenged us to create a good looking toy that could be used at home, in school, and in therapy by any kid, regardless of ability,” Maeve explained. What the designing duo came up with was the first iteration of their O-Rings, which would later become Increment’s debut toy.

Fueled by their early success with the O-Rings prototype, the designing women decided to turn their final project into a full-fledged company following their graduation from RISD. It was one giant leap toward making their inclusive toys a reality.

O-Ring_hero


The O-Rings

Increment’s O-Rings are 4 stackable rings of incremental sizes. Each ring is a different color, texture, and filling to promote full body sensory learning. They are for kids of all ages, and, if a girl or boy can dream it, there is no limit to what they can do with them!

With that in mind, Maeve and Cynthia designed the rings to be incredibly durable, using high-quality, certified non-toxic materials (they are manufactured in the US). The designers say the rings encourage teamwork and social play, while constantly building gross motor skills as the child grows.

O-Rings_stagesThrough partnerships with local schools, the O-Rings have been tested with kids (with and without disabilities) ages 0-12. Every baby, child, and kid who has played with them has had a tactile blast! The 40-something and 30-something “kids” in our office wouldn’t mind taking a set for a spin either.

The O-Rings are in the initial production phase, which Maeve and Cynthia are funding with an Indiegogo campaign that launched today. Their goal of $30,000 will go straight to producing the first 150 sets of O-Rings. From there, and with two other toys already in development, their plan is to create an entire line of inclusive playthings under the Increment name.

O-Ring_kids5To take a school project, and have the determination to launch it into a business – one that does good, no less – is nothing short of extraordinary. Brava to these two Women You Should Know!


PS – This guy definitely has the right idea!

O-Ring big kid