It all started with a scribbled idea on a napkin – that was in 2008. Drew Anne Long was out shopping with her then 7 year old wheelchair bound daughter when she realized that she was rather close to outgrowing the regular shopping cart.
With an array of carts for toddlers and infants, fun-sized ones children can push around and motorized scooters for the handicapped, one would think that all bases were covered. It was at that moment that Drew realized there were no shopping carts that catered to people with special needs.
The small-town Alabama mom knew a specially designed shopping cart was a necessity
Thinking, “I can’t be the only mom who needs this,” Drew got to sketching out various shopping cart designs. Thereafter, she posted her ideas on Facebook and the response she received was overwhelming. “I wanted to give special needs families a sense of normalcy which allows us to feel like that typical family — even if it’s at the grocery store, even if its for 30 minutes,” said Long.
Taking inspiration from her daughter
Drew’s own daughter, Carline suffers from Rett Syndrome, a degenerative disorder which causes a progressive loss of motor skills and language. The disease primarily affects females, with infants generally only showing symptoms after 6 months.
She finished up a draft shopping cart design and applied to have it patented. Thereafter seeking the advice of specialists to assist her in bringing her design into fruition. “We had to rally the troops and communities to say, ‘Go to your store and tell them you need Caroline’s Cart for your special needs child.’” Long explained. “We really had to convince retailers.”
Read: Mom Carries Disabled Son On Her Back As She Promises To Take Him To Travel The World
The journey to design the perfect shopping cart was not easy
“It just about could have bankrupted us,” Long said. “We took money out of retirement, my husband lost his job — and in the high of this, Caroline was in and out of hospital. You name the hurdle, we had it.” A manufacturer was eventually found that would step onboard and this was when Caroline’s Cart was born.
The shopping cart appeared in smaller stores in 2013 and by 2015, Target had joined the list. The product has since been placed in all Target stores and you can now find them in Walmart, Home Depot, and many other locations, spanning five different countries. “Honduras came on last week,” the inspirational mom said.
The featured stores have at least two shopping carts available at any given time, offering children, adults, and seniors who suffer from disabilities the ability to safely shop with their caregivers, parents, and loved ones. “From helping a woman with Alzheimer’s to another with hip surgery, it has been wonderful,” she said.
Many followers of Caroline’s Cart on Instagram were excited and grateful for the innovative design. “This pic prints tears to my eyes. As a parent of a special needs child being able to do such a simple thing as shop is now possible with the Caroline cart!! Thank you for making shopping enjoyable and safe for our family!” one follower said.
Another said “ Thank you ! I didn’t know our local store had one of these, and I may be ugly crying because it won’t be a 2 person job to take my son to get a big load of groceries with a cart and stroller. 🙌🏻 usually we just stay home and my husband goes alone.“
No end in sight for this determined mom
Drew has made it clear that she will not stop until each and every store has a shopping cart that caters to the disabled, stating that “If you’re going to make accommodations for the typical family, that same accommodation should be extended to those who have a disability.”
The task of maneuvering a wheelchair through a store while simultaneously pushing a shopping cart is no longer an issue for caregivers. We hope that these carts do in fact make it to each and every store throughout the country as many tasks would suddenly become a lot easier, also giving back the dignity special needs people deserve.
Watch the Ted Talk presented by Drew Anne Long where she shares her story and the inspiration behind Caroline’s Cart.
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