Adapting for Accessibility

OT faculty member Bill Janes uses a 3D printer to create adaptive equipment for people with disabilities.

It was an aha moment when Bill Janes, a faculty member in the occupational therapy department, learned about Go Baby Go, a national network of students and professionals who modify ride-on toy cars for toddlers with limited mobility. “I realized this is why I became an OT, both because of how the kids responded to Go Baby Go and how it brought out a maker tendency in me,” Janes says. “I like to fix things and make them better for people.” 

Janes established Mizzou’s Go Baby Go chapter, a campuswide collaboration that includes students in OT, art, physical therapy and engineering. “I walked into a situation where tons of people were already motivated and had secured funding from Pascale’s Pals, so we were able to just take off,” he says.

Janes also leads a team of occupational therapists who design and adapt dozens of practical devices for patients at Mizzou’s ALS clinic. 

Until recently, assistive devices were one-size-fits-all, meaning they weren’t perfect for anyone, Janes says. But with the help of 3D printing and computer design software, he and his team can customize everyday tools like bottle openers, nail clippers and even curling irons to help ALS patients live more independently. 

Last year Janes received the Lee Henson Award in honor of both Go Baby Go and his 3D printing lab for their positive impact on accessibility. “OT is about finding surprisingly simple solutions to devastating problems,” he says. 

This story was originally published in the Fall 2020 issue of MIZZOU alumni magazine.