A safe, durable, and welcoming sleep environment.
Falling asleep more easily
Within days of using the bed, the family sent us a thank you with this note:
The last two nights, he fell asleep more easily... as we use it in the years ahead, we'll remember your generosity and how blessed we are to have gotten connected with all of you.
I cried tears of joy. Not only was Danny safer at night, he was also sleeping more soundly, giving him the rest he so desperately needs to achieve his full potential. This project reaffirmed my passion for design -- I can truly improve the lives of others who face challenges I could not imagine.
A safer, more affordable sleeping environment
Some children with genetic developmental delays like ATR-X Syndrome have difficulties understanding danger. When alone after bedtime, playing with an outlet or tipping over a dresser could be a life or death situation.
Our user, a 5-year-old boy named Danny with ATR-X, was outgrowing the crib that kept him safe at night, having recently climbed and fallen out. He needed a new sleep space more affordable than current $12,000 options.
Our professional-grade bed provides Danny a safe, durable, and welcoming place to sleep as he continues to grow up, and it only cost an estimated $5,000 in material and labor.
From a toddler crib to the safety bed
Who is Danny, and what does he need?
To begin the project, we observed Danny's family's daily routines. At the time, he would sleep in a toddler-sized crib wearing uncomfortable foot braces. Originally meant to correct club foot, these braces now prevented climbing.
The family told us that the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab staff had recommended an adult-sized walled enclosure bed, but my team had a concern -- was it ethical to use a big crib?
Before continuing, we interviewed a Northwestern early development specialist and Danny's physical and behavioral therapists. They all agreed that a safety bed would both keep him safe at night and afford him a defined sleeping space, helping him fall asleep faster.
What makes a good safety bed?
From our observations, interviews, and research of current products, we developed these requirements:
Safety: The bed must meet all ASTM crib safety standards and prevent access out of the bed into potential hazards.
Durability: The user cannot break any part of the bed when it is fully closed.
Cleaning: The user's family must be able to clean the bed with a damp cloth.
Aesthetics: The bed cannot be intimidating to the user and must fit in with traditional bedroom furniture.
A tall bed with a prairie twist
My team and I brainstormed multiple solutions to this problem, emphasizing one requirement at a time.
I synthesized elements of our initial solutions into a final design -- a red oak hardwood bed with bifold doors, dowel rod rails, and Prairie Style detailing.
The material and simple construction of the bed minimize material and labor costs, and its design allows Danny to climb in on his own, saving his parents the strain of lifting him into bed.
Prairie style's emphasis on horizontal lines breaks up the bed's long, intimidating vertical rails, making the bed an inviting space while also blending with existing furniture.
From paper drawings to product delivery
Since my team was working on other projects and I have over four years of woodcraft experience, I built the bed by myself with the advice of the Ford shop staff, ensuring the safest product possible.
I developed detailed ANSI drawings of each piece of the bed which guided every cut, groove, and hole. With these drawings and the machinery in the shop, I turned a stack of red oak lumber into the safety bed in eight weeks. My team and I then sanded, stained, and finished the bed together.
Finally, in October, we loaded up the bed, brought it to Danny's home, and assembled it in his room. Within a few days, he was already sleeping more soundly, and he and his parents will be able to rest easy for years to come.