Student group adapts toys, devices for kids with disabilities
By Caitlin Hayes

Due to an extremely rare chromosomal abnormality, 17-year-old Noah Cervantes has compromised mobility, vision and hearing that make it difficult to maneuver in his environment, including using traditional toys and devices that might bring him a sense of independence and joy.

In 2021, Noah’s mother, Danielle Jackson of Ithaca, found adapted toys online, where the toys’ buttons had been replaced with larger external switches, but they cost more than $100 each. She searched for a local organization that could rewire toys for her – and then made a connection, with Michael Dicpinigaitis ’24, that would improve her son’s life, along with the lives of many other children with disabilities in the region.

Dicpinigaitis had just founded a new student organization, the Big Red Adaptive Play and Design Initiative (APDI), which trained Cornell students from any discipline to adapt toys and other devices for children with disabilities. Now the president emeritus of APDI, Dicpinigaitis was honored with a 2023 Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Award from the Einhorn Center for Community Engagement.

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