(Contributed by Trish)
One of the hardest things we had to do before our daughter Diana was born was make a place for her to sleep. None of the cribs in the stores could be used by someone in a wheelchair, because they all had sides that dropped down and blocked the floor under them. So I couldn’t get close enough to any of them to reach the baby. So we decided to ask someone to make a crib that I could use, but that could also be operated by my husband, who is not disabled.
We found an organization called Volunteers for Medical Engineering, in Baltimore, MD. An engineer came and met with us to find out what we needed. He took the crib that we had bought and modified it.
First, we thought it would be important for the modified crib to be made with the mattress in the lowest position so that as our daughter grew, we would not need to modify it again. So the first step was to raise the legs of the crib so that the mattress would be above Trish’s lap. The legs were raised 15 inches and stabilized with additional bracing along the back edge. This way, Trish can drive right up under it like a table and reach in to get the baby.
The other modification was to change the drop-down rail on one side to a door. Well, two doors, actually. The two doors open at each end of the crib, and swing toward the middle. That way, no matter which end of the crib our daughter crawled to, she couldn’t get away from her Mommy. The doors close with a peg-in-the-hole latch with rings on the ends of the pegs that are really easy for my Mommy to grasp. The side of the crib is stabilized with an additional solid bar above the doors. The legs are braced further with braces on the front and a solid board across the rear legs.
Of course, when Diana got older, we searched for a different latch that was not as easy to operate, because she learned to pull the pins herself! We switched to a different hardware, which required a bit of hand strength and coordination to operate.
It should be noted that this crib design won’t work for every wheelchair user. One of the down sides of this design is that the baby, as he or she gets older and more mobile, might tend to lunge out toward the parent as the door is being opened. Therefore, as the baby grows, a design that is not so high off the floor might be more effective.