Pursuing Mobility: Q&A with Cole Galloway

James “Cole” Galloway, Director of the Pediatric Mobility Lab and Design Studio and Professor at the University of Delaware, revealed an unusual and inspiring way to unlock children’s social, emotional, and cognitive skills. We interviewed Cole to learn more.

Pursuing Mobility. Cole Galloway at TEDMED 2014. [Photo: Sandy Huffaker, for TEDMED]
Cole Galloway at TEDMED 2014. [Photo: Sandy Huffaker, for TEDMED]

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

This talk matters now because every day that kids sit when they could be moving is a day that can never be regained in their emotional, cognitive, and social development. Children’s inability to move and play has alarming implications for their future, and we can’t sit back and wait for data to be collected or companies to assess the economic feasibility of new devices. We started with high-tech custom robot-controlled vehicles, but we quickly realized that we couldn’t meet demand — we had parents begging us for help. That’s why we turned to off-the-shelf ride-on cars that we could adapt in the lab. The greatest impact the talk could have would be for people across the globe to get involved in adapting cars for children in their own communities. Waiting is not an option when it comes to kids.

What is the legacy you want to leave?

The obvious legacy is the development of simple, elegant mobility solutions for people with special needs — solutions that can be implemented by ordinary people who want to make a difference. I hope that people everywhere get the message about how important mobility is — how critical it is to people’s ability to respect themselves and to gain the respect of others.

Beyond that, I hope I’m remembered for not just what I did but how I did it — not only the product but the process — by inviting anyone who could contribute to join me in this effort. I’ve worked with students at all levels (elementary to post doctoral fellows), faculty, clinicians, family members, and business owners. I’ve collaborated with engineers, various types of therapists, food scientists, writers, restaurateurs, fashion designers, marketing professionals, videographers, museum curators, and graphic designers. If you want to accomplish big things, have a big “party” and invite people who have big ideas.

Is there anything else you wish you could have included in your talk?

Mobility is a human right. Sound overstated? I dare you to: a) look at the definition of a ‘human right’, b) think a bit about how movement and mobility influence your life (not just your ability to get around, but what that ‘getting around’ means to your thinking, planning, happiness, friendships – all the best things in life and then, c) restrict your mobility to some small degree for an hour.  Mobility is a human right.

What’s next for you?

Playgrounds! An experimental playground lab – at Disney!