Modding a baby crib
for disabled parents.
By Michael H. Kelsey
Photography by Sam Murphy
Plenges when caring for a newborn. Besides
the usual sleep deprivation and anxiety
arents with disabilities face numerous chal-
about such a small and dependent life, the equipment made for infants and children can present
Changing tables are built for standing, bathtubs
can take two (or more!) hands, and cribs require
parents to have substantial flexibility and lifting
My wife, Liz, is a little person; when she’s out of
the house, she uses crutches and a lower-body
brace that doesn’t bend. Around the house, we
keep most of our storage low to the ground, and our
activities are on the floor. (Dinners on a patterned
rug with Japanese lacquered-table place settings
are a great way to relax after work!)
By the time we brought our daughter, Madeleine,
home from the hospital, we’d been thinking about
the many adaptations needed to care for her. We
consulted several times with Judi Rogers at Through
the Looking Glass in Berkeley, Calif., a terrific organization with resources, advice, designs, and uniquely
engineered equipment for parents with disabilities.
Some things were easy: a mover’s dolly to move
stuff around, a padded changing pad on the floor,
trays of supplies stored in our coffee table.
But Madeleine’s crib posed a challenge: cribs are
built to strict regulations, and the railings are all
2½ to 3 feet above the floor, far too high for Liz to
use. One of Rogers’ designs inspired me to modify
a crib to be easy for Liz to use both in and out of
her brace (and easier for my back, as well!), while
being safe for Madeleine to sleep in unattended.
I started with an inexpensive “Leksvik” crib from
Ikea, built of solid wood and easy to alter. It converts
to a toddler bed, so the mattress is lower; with the
CRIB MOD: Raising an infant isn’t easy, and it’s
especially challenging if you’re disabled. The author
modified an Ikea crib with a sliding railing.
legs cut off, the top of the mattress is just 8 inches
off the floor.
I cut one side panel in half, and attached drawer
glides at the top and bottom to rejoin the two
halves. With a strip of molding on the end panel
as a stop, and the fixed part of the railing screwed
to the mattress frame, the panel opens and closes
like a patio door and stays solidly in place. I used
another strip of molding and a block of foam
padding to close the gap between the rail and the
mattress. I added a clevis pin underneath to lock
the door, and covered the railing posts with a
flexible crib bumper.
Now when we open the crib, the mattress is
right there, just inches off the floor. Liz and I can
both get Madeleine into and out of the crib, day
or night, with no extra effort.
Detailed assembly instructions and safety notes
are available at makezine.com/go/cribmod.
Michael Kelsey is an experimental particle physicist and
occasional tinkerer, investigating rare B meson decays