Monday, May 2, 2016

Caroline's Cart: Striving to make shopping more accessible for families with special needs

Alabama mother Drew Ann Long’s daughter Caroline has Rett Syndrome, a condition that can impair movement and that has made Caroline unable to walk.  For the first few years of Caroline’s life, Long would put her daughter in the seat of shopping carts during store trips, but she knew that it wouldn’t be long before Caroline outgrew the seat.  That’s when she came up with the idea for Caroline’s Cart.

Caroline’s Cart is designed to hold individuals with special needs who have gotten too big to sit in the child seat of a standard shopping cart.  As is shown in the video below, it functions similarly to a standard cart but has a larger and sturdier seat facing the caregiver pushing the cart.  The seat can hold up to 250 pounds.

Drew Ann Long saw the need for a cart like this when Caroline started having to use a wheelchair for shopping trips.  Long remembers a particularly hard shopping trip when she had to manage then-7-year-old Caroline, as well as her other, 9-year-old daughter, and her 2-year-old son.  She has called that trip a kind of “aha” moment for her, as she realized that there had to be a shopping cart for individuals who have special needs, and that if she needed it, other people did as well.

Now, national chain stores are seeing that need as well.  Target says the majority of its stores have at least one Caroline’s Cart as of March of this year, after one of their own employees who has a child with special needs suggested the cart.  The cart is becoming more widely available at other stores too, including Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Kroger, Publix, and Price Chopper.

Long says that she has kept Caroline updated and involved throughout the journey of making the cart, and that Caroline is aware of how much she has helped other people who have special needs.  Caroline has seen pictures, and heard emails that her mom has read to her.  Long says that while she isn’t sure how much Caroline understands, she does know that the first time they used the cart at their home Target was very special for Caroline.

You can learn more about Caroline’s Cart on its website, as well as from Today Parents, ABC, and Target’s statement about providing the carts.

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