For children with physical disabilities, being able to play with any toy they want, any off-the-shelf toy or toy they may see on TV is not possible. Depending on their abilities, facts are, typical toys may just not be a possibility.
However, if a child has the ability to move their foot, arm, head, mouth, or any other part of their body, it is possible to adapt toys for their use and play with the addition of an accessibility switch. Accessibility switches come in a variety of styles and functions, allowing use by different body parts and by a variety of motions. We can see this variety in kits, such as the Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit for Sony’s Playstation adaptive Access Controller.
You can check out some switch-adapted games and toys at Enabling Devices and their catalog to give you a better understanding of the types of toys that can be adapted to being used with switches, and the type of switches that are available.
This guide focuses on adapting the Dance & Play Bluey plush toy for children with specific needs, enhancing their play experience.
As an unapologetic Bluey household, switch-adapting Bluey was simply inevitable. So below are the steps to adapt the Dance & Play Bluey to be used with a switch. What we’re doing is moving the activation button, which is located on the toy’s belly, to an external button.
About the Dance & Play Bluey Toy
“Ready… Set… Dance Mode! Get your dancing shoes on, turn up the volume and get ready for good times! Play along with Bluey as she hops, waves and dances! Then join the fun for games, songs and more – For real life!“
The Dance & Play Bluey plush toy comes with over 55 phrases to say. Bluey also plays games Statues, Dance Mode, and Copycat. Bluey can also hop on one leg, dance, and wave her arms. All of this is activated by the button in the toys stomach, shown by the ‘Press Here’ label in the image above.
All functions remain. This adaption also does not affect Bluey’s balance and allows the toy to still stand on one leg.
Are you ready to get this awesome toy adapted to be used with an adaptive switch? Then let’s get started!
NOTE: These instructions, as said above, move the functionality of the activation button to an external button, disabling the button located at the toy’s belly. If I had it to do over again, I would have added the cable via soldering and not disconnected the existing button.
Step 1: Gather Your Tools
To accomplish your goal, you only need a handful of things. Most of you probably already own.
To adapt the Dance & Play Bluey you will need:
- a knife or box cutter
- a thin, long Phillips head screwdriver
- electrical tape
- a female mono-cable
- a needle and thread
- a zip tie
A drill and soldering iron are optional. You can accomplish what you need with the tools above, but adding a drill and/or a soldering iron does increase the cleanliness of the conversion.
Step 2: Cut open Bluey
Cut the back seam with a knife. Back of ears down to the tail. If you pull on the seam, you should be able to find a thread. If you do and can manage to cut it with the box cutter, the seam itself then begins to come apart, giving you clean edges to sew back together.
Carefully peel back the fabric to reveal the plastic casing and its 5 screws.
Step 3: Opening the Back
Loosen all 5 screws and remove the back cover starting from the top. Do this carefully and take your time working around the arm and leg components that come out of the case. The goal here is to expose the small circuit board at the top of the toy and give yourself enough space to work.
Step 4: Adapt for mono-cable addition
Drill a 1/8″ hole at the top, below the top screw hole to thread your mono-cable through. The goal here is to be able to thread the mono-cable through, leaving the female port hanging from the back of the toy. So if you don’t have a drill, just finding a way to get a hole here, without compromising the integrity of the case, is all you need to worry about.
Step 5: Locate your wires
At the top of the board, you will see two wires that are labeled “Button” on the top of the circuit board. These are what you’re looking for.
Step 6: Connecting your mono-cable
Cut the wires. Carefully remove the insulation to reveal bare wire.
Tape or solder the wire leading from the board to the black mono cable wire. Repeat.
You should now have the pair of “Button” wires leading from your board to the pair of wires of your mono-cable.
In the below photo, you see where I ended up soldering the mono cable directly to the board. You can also see my placement of the zip tie, which is used in Step 7 below. (I was clearly too focused on what I was doing and failed to take a few photos!)
Step 7: Reassemble
Add a zip tie along the cable, inside the casing, to prevent the cable from being pulled out. (Seen above)
Replace the back cover and screws. Note: Start from the bottom when replacing the cover.
Slide the fabric back over the plastic casing and sew the seam back together, and around your new mono cable, which should be sticking out of the back of Bluey’s head, ready to be connected to an adapter switch.
Step 8: Enjoy!
Connect a switch and enjoy your newly adapted Bluey!
Adapting toys for children with physical disabilities using accessibility switches opens a world of play opportunities. The Dance & Play Bluey adaptation preserves all functions, allowing children to enjoy the toy’s interactive features seamlessly.