Drew Ann Long never planned to be an inventor. She was a busy mom with three children, including Caroline who has special needs. When Drew discovered a logistical issue that mom’s like her across the country experience, she decided to solve the problem.
Caroline has Rett’s syndrome, leaving her immobile and unable to speak. When Caroline was young, Drew would take her grocery shopping and Caroline fit in the standard child seat that grocery carts have. But when Caroline grew older, she could no longer fit in those seats.
Drew knew that pushing both Caroline’s wheelchair and a grocery cart was impractical, and she didn’t want to hire a babysitter every time she went shopping. She wanted Caroline to be included in all of the aspects of the Long family’s life.
So Drew teamed up with grocery cart manufacturer Technibilt and invented a new shopping cart. “Caroline’s Cart is a special-needs shopping cart and it was specifically designed for older children and adults with disabilities,” said Drew. “It’s for children who don’t walk, children that have low muscle tone, or anybody who needs further assistance while in the store.”
Click the video below to watch Drew tell the story in her own words.
Michael Garry, a columnist for “Supermarket News,” offered a decisive endorsement of Caroline’s Cart in a January column: “While I don’t normally plug products — whether for-sale or store equipment like this shopping cart — I will make an exception here,” Garry wrote of Caroline’s Cart. “Every store should offer at least one.”
Drew explained why every grocery store should have at least one of these carts. “There is not a store that doesn’t need it. There is not a store that can tell me they won’t benefit from it. There is not a community that doesn’t have families like mine.”
“Caroline’s Cart promotes inclusion,” Drew said. “That is what families want. We have it in our schools. We want it in our communities. So by providing Caroline’s Cart, the retailer really is sending a message out into their community that ‘we welcome you in our store and we want your shopping experience to be a pleasant one.’”
In my interview with Drew, her passion for helping the special needs community was very clear. “I want these children to be visible,” Drew told LifeNews. “Children with special needs are children. Don’t even say ‘special needs child.’ They are a child with special needs. They are a child! And these children need to be in public. They have worth. They’re individuals with feelings and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. When Caroline was little and outgrew the regular shopping cart seat, I had to put her in the back of the cart where you put your products. That wasn’t dignifying to her. It screamed, ‘I’m disabled and I don’t walk!’ That is not how we should be treating these individual with disabilities.”
Caroline’s Carts are now getting into grocery stores across the country. They are in hundreds of Kroger stores, WalMart and Target are testing them, and they are now on military bases around the country.
“It takes time to change a culture,” Drew told LifeNews. “You need to educate the buyers of the retailers that accessibility is critical in today’s marketplace. There are laws set up for accessibility that the retailers need to comply with. They need to provide handicap parking places, they need to have doors that are wide enough, they need to have handicap bathrooms, but I still can’t shop in their store without this cart. If they’re going to provide electric scooters and fun carts, they should help the special needs community too.”
Drew continued, “The special needs community call themselves ‘the invisible population.’ They don’t go out very much because it’s so difficult! This cart is designed to help change that.”
I could tell that for Drew and her husband, faith is a very big part of their life. “We believe Caroline is a gift from the Lord. God could have kept her from having a disability, but He didn’t, because she had a job to do. God had a plan and purpose for her. We believe God has a plan for every child He creates. We want to be able to say, ‘you have a child with special needs? You can have a great life! It’s going to be okay.’”
Learn more about Caroline’s Cart at http://www.CarolinesCart.com.