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As the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

In this case, however, it was an Alabama mother who was doing the inventing, as Drew Long needed to find a way to shop for groceries with her 13-year-old special needs daughter, Caroline.


“Until she was about six, I would take Caroline to the grocery store and put her in the cart,” Long told The Jewish Press. “We had to use those fire truck shopping carts, those carts designed to look like cars – amusement carts they are called. I would bring pillows to prop her up but by the time she was six, I couldn’t shove her into those anymore.”

Caroline suffers from Rett syndrome, a rare genetic neurological disorder that almost always occurs in girls and leads to severe impairment in almost every area of life, including speaking, walking, eating and breathing.

“I used to put a blanket down in the basket of the shopping cart and lay Caroline down there, but it was embarrassing for her and not dignified. Special needs kids deserve the same respect we all have,” said the Alabama mother of three.

Adding insult to injury, store managers would tell Mrs. Long that it was against store policy to allow children in shopping cart baskets.

“I explained the situation but was told that there was nothing they could do to accommodate Caroline’s needs,” said Mrs. Long, who began to wonder in 2007 if there existed a special needs shopping cart that just wasn’t available in her area.

“I didn’t have a lot of choices. I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair. There are electric scooters, amusement carts, and special needs parents are a huge group. Why wasn’t there anything to accommodate our needs?”

Channeling her anger and indignation in a constructive manner, Long spent a year looking for shopping carts designed to accommodate the special needs population.

“I spoke to people in the industry and managers and everyone told me there wasn’t one available and I couldn’t understand why,” recalled Long. “Caroline isn’t the only special needs kid in the world. They are in every neighborhood, but often invisible because there are so many places that aren’t accessible to them. The more I researched this, the more fueled I became.”

Long designed the first prototype herself on paper, then took it to be professionally rendered. She contacted the largest shopping cart manufacturer in North America, Technibilt in Newton, North Carolina and took a seven-hour car ride to pay the company a visit.

“I showed them my design and I was told by someone who had been with them for 25 years that nothing like this existed,” said Long. “He told me, ‘There is a huge need for this. Keep on doing what you are doing and this will catch on.’”

Buoyed by her visit to Technibilt, Long had a prototype made by a small cart manufacturer in Georgia.

“I had 100 carts made and I took them and seeded the market,” said Long. “I knew that if I could just get them out there, this would catch on. Moms would see this and want it. And this wasn’t just for children. This was for adults with mobility issues, with Alzheimer’s. There wasn’t a community out there that didn’t need this.”

While the carts were greeted enthusiastically, Long still had her eye on a larger prize – getting them into major supermarket chains, providing an equal opportunity shopping experience to the special needs population.

“Everyone told me they loved it but that they would only buy carts from Technibilt,” said Long.


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Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients. She can be contacted at [email protected].