Program aims to make toys easier to use for children with disabilities

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A program that gives toys to children with disabilities for Christmas needs your help.

It is called Toy Tech and they modify electronic toys to be easier to use for children with mobility issues.

“A lot of times, children with disabilities, there’s nothing in the toy store for them, and their brothers and sisters go and talk to Santa and they’re just kind of left out because they can’t really play with it,” said Larry Ward.

Ward started Toy Tech 26 years ago, partnering with the East Tennessee Technology Access Center.

“We will go in and do a little surgery on the toy here, and it’ll have this cable sticking out,” he said.

The reason for the changes is because in a lot of the toys the on and off switches are too small for children with disabilities and mobility issues to use, so they add a larger external switch instead which can be used with any part of their body.

Toy Tech volunteers say finding toys like those in stores is difficult, and they can cost up to $100.

“Play is important, socialization, having fun, doing things that other kids do, not just watching,” said ETTAC Executive Director Lois Symington.

They start working in the fall and each December they throw a party for the kids and their families to pick out their toys.

They rely on donations each year hoping to give out 100 toys, but so far this year they have received less than 20.

“Every toy takes between one and two hours. We have a lot of work to do,” said Symington.

They say all that work is worth it to see the joy in the little faces.

The Toy Tech Christmas party is planned this year for Dec. 8 at ETTAC in South Knoxville.

If you would like to help out or donate toys, you can contact ETTAC at (865) 219-0130.

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