Start-up giving children ‘independence they are ready for’

Sisters Peta and Melanie Stamell say they are in a unique position to solve some of the problems children face in the built environment, such as turning lights on and off. Photo: Eva Schroeder.

Canberra start-up, Little Products, is providing children with the “independence they are ready for,” with products that enable kids to perform tasks such as turning lights on and off.

Peta and Melanie Stamell, twin sisters and co-founders of Little Products, say their experience living with dwarfism has them uniquely placed to solve some of the problems children face in the built environment.

After realising she was making decisions about her life based on her built environment, such as being able to turn the lights on and off or finding a rental property with a low front door handle, Melanie decided to take action.

“It’s hard to get angry about something when it’s always been that way… but then I did get angry.”

Armed with her Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, Melanie developed ‘the toggler’, a light switch extender that allowed her to pull down on a toggle and turn the light on and off.

“It was a whole lot of stress that I didn’t even know I was under – gone.”

When friends’ children visited, Peta and Melanie started to see the potential for their product in a different market. Melanie’s engineering background and Peta’s experience as a web designer was a “very handy combination of skills”.

“We found that children enjoyed using them, and the whole world opened for them,” Peta says, using the example of children who are toilet trained but still need someone to come in and turn the bathroom light on.

“The built environment handicaps them … it’s about removing artificial barriers such as light switches that are designed for the average sized adult.

“When you ‘grow up’, it’s easy to forget that these sorts of problems ever existed.”

After a failed Kickstarter campaign, Peta and Melanie received a grant to engage designers, and were offered a place in the Griffin Accelerator Program. The final version of the toggler is now available for pre-order.

“Simplicity takes time … this looks good and it takes up less room than a step stool.

“After 35 years of using ‘alternate products’ we know these work. We are the case users and these solutions work.

“Why not make things easier?” Peta says.

Little Products has two more products currently in development.

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