More than three decades ago, Ardsley-on-Hudson resident Steven Kanor, PhD, was working as a senior biomedical engineer at a cerebral palsy center on Long Island when he happened upon a remarkable void: there were no toys for disabled and special-needs kids. So he began making adapted toys and games, and continued when he joined Cerebral Palsy of Westchester, where, as director of engineering, he created a mobile toy-lending library that operated out of a bus. Realizing the potential of this niche market, at age 35, Kanor launched Toys for Special Children from his Hastings basement with barely any start-up funds (“just a minimum of out-of-pocket expenses”), eventually focusing on the business full-time. That was 40 years ago. Today, Kanor’s Hawthorne-based business, Enabling Devices, is an international company that offers more than 800 products—all adapted, created, or invented by Kanor and his board. With 25 employees, the company generates annual revenues of $8 million.
There are no other companies that carry our particular product mix of communicators, switches, adapted technology, and therapeutic learning devices, Kanor maintains. Its most popular product line is augmentative communicators for the speech impaired, which allow users to express themselves through pre-recorded messages that teach language and cognitive skills. The goal with all of our adapted toys is for children to develop important skills that will help them reach their full potential, while still having fun. With the iPad’s increasing popularity, Enabling Devices invented an iPad mounting system last year ($206.95). This recent bestseller comes complete with a mounting arm and clamp, which provides flexibility and reach from a wheelchair, tabletop, or bedrail. Enabling Devices also has developed adaptations for other popular electronics such as MP3 players (ranging from $51.95 to $299.95), iHomes (from $157.95 to $209.95), Macs and PCs (from $92.95 to $169.95), and the video game Guitar Hero ($249.95).
Kanor’s company also takes requests for customization. “We created an eye-blink switch for a paralyzed child who could only blink his eyes,” Kanor says. “The switch was then connected to a scanning communicator so that the child could blink his eyes and select a message.” The eye-blink switch took approximately six months to develop and sells for $138.95.