Parents with disabilities face numerous challenges when caring for a newborn. Besides the usual lack of sleep and anxiety about such a small and dependent life, much of the equipment for infants and children present substantial barriers for parents with disabilities. Changing tables are built for standing, bathtubs can take two (or more!) hands, and cribs require parents to have substantial flexibility and lifting strength.
Cribs are manufactured according to strict standards designed for the safety of the child, not for universal access; the railings are all 2 or 3 feet off the floor, and a foot or more above the mattress. Because infants are left unattended in cribs overnight, they need to be built in such a way that the child cannot accidentally fall out of the crib or get any part of their body (especially the head and neck) trapped between components. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has publicly accessible explanations, as well as formal guidance for manufacturers.
This Instructable describes modifying a wooden crib to allow a parent of short stature to access the crib without lifting. The railing opens from side to side, and the mattress is positioned just above the floor.
An article about this project will appear in MAKE 17, available on newsstands 10 March 2009.
Step 1: Materials and Tools Required
McMaster-Carr Item PriceDrawer glides 26" full-extension 2712A9 $ 21.50/pairAl tube 1/4" ID, 1/2" OD x 1/2" L 92510A765 1.54Angle bracket 11/16" x 1" 1556A26 0.49Quick-release T-handle pin (2") 92490A651 5.62 Common Hardware Quantity3/4" square moulding 53 in#8x1-1/2" wood screws 9 ea1/4" external retaining clip 1 eaHigh-density foam block 25" x 3-1/2" x 2"
The project could be completed entirely with hand tools. The use of a drill press with vise, especially for modifying the angle bracket, is highly recommended for accuracy and for safety. You'll need:
- Sabre saw or jigsaw (a hand crosscut saw would work, but you'll get cleaner cuts this way)
- Variable speed electric drill
- Drill press (pictured) with vise (optional but recommended)
- Drill index with wood bits: 3/32", 1/4", 3/16", 5/16", 3/8", 1/2"
- High-speed steel 1/4" bit or step-drill bit (pictured)
- 1/8" round file or deburring tool (pictured)
- Drill stops
- Phillips head screwdriver
- Rotary tool (Dremel) with abrasive cutting disk
- Masking or painter's (blue) tape
- 220-grit sandpaper
Step 2: Choose a Crib
I started with an IKEA "Leksvik" crib. At $159, it costs substantially less than many cribs (if you don't have an IKEA nearby, it is possible to order the crib for delivery, but that adds about $250 to the cost!) and it's made of solid wood.. Their "Hensvik" crib ($129) has the same structural design and dimensions.
The frame which holds the mattress is bolted directly to the two end panels, as part of the structural support. That means the side rails are not essential for structural integrity. The crib also converts to a toddler bed, so the matteress can be placed much closer to the floor
Step 3: Prepare the Moulding
Drill three or four 3/16" clearance holes evenly spaced along each length of moulding, and countersink with a 5/16" bit.
Step 4: Prepare the Angle Bracket
WARNING Be sure that you clamp the bracket firmly in a vise, and wear adequate eye protection -- the drill bit can grab the bracket and spin it without warning.
When you've finished drilling, clean up both edges with the deburring tool (pictured), or with a 1/8" round file.
Step 5: Mark Up the Railing
It is easiest if you mark all of the cuts and holes on the side rail first. This will ensure, for example, that the drawer glides are properly aligned. I used pieces of blue painter's tape on the rails everywhere I needed to make a mark.
Mark lines at 1" in from the outside end (the end with the screw and dowel holes) of the fixed half-rail, on the top and bottom bars. This is where the end of the fixed part of the drawer glide will be positioned on the rail.
Mark the top and bottom bars 25" from one end of the rail. The side rails have an odd number of vertical posts, so you can't cut exactly on center. Identify (with PostIt notes or tape, as you wish) the shorter 25" half as "moving" and the longer (27-1/4") half as "fixed."
Step 6: Mark Holes for the Drawer Glides (1)
Mark the centers of the four large holes, two near one end and two near the other, on the base part of the glide. The two latter holes are visible through cutouts in the middle section of the glide. Repeat this process on both the top and bottom bars of the fixed half-rail.
In the picture, I've stuck brads into each of the hole positions to make them visible.
Step 7: Mark Holes for the Drawer Glides (2)
Mark the centers of three holes on the extension arm: the "cam adjustment" at the end nearest the tab, the vertical slot at the center of the extension arm, and the small hole at the far (central) end of the extension arm visible through a cutout in the middle section. Repeat this process on both the top and bottom bars of the moving half-rail.
In the picture, I've stuck brads into each of the hole positions to make them visible.
Step 8: Cutting and Drilling the Railing
Using the sabre saw, cut the two bars at the 25" marks. Smooth down all four cut faces, and round off the cut edges, with 220-grit sandpaper. Leave the identifying notes attached.
At each of the hole marks you made above, drill a 3/32" pilot hole into the bar 1/2" deep, attaching a drill stop to your bit (wrap painter's tape around your drill bit if you don't have a stop). Remove all the tape pieces when you're finished.
On the bottom bar of the fixed half-rail, drill out the hole nearest the cut end with a 3/16" bit. This hole will be used to anchor the fixed rail to the mattress support panel for stability. This is shown in the close-up.
Step 9: Attach the Drawer Glides to the Fixed Rail
Step 10: Attach the Moving Rail
Step 11: Finish the Rail Assembly
Turn the assembly over, and tighten the screws on the drawer glide extension arms, from the far (uncut) end toward the center. The rail assembly should open and close smoothly, without binding. If not, loosen screws on the drawer glide bases (on the fixed rail) and realign them.
Insert two IKEA dowel pins into their holes on the end of the moving rail; use a bit of carpenter's glue in the holes to hold them in place.
Step 12: Attach the Angle Bracket
Use a #8x3/4" wood screw (one of the extra screws from the drawer glides will be suitable) to attach the bracket. The long arm (with the 1/4" hole) should hang down from the inside edge, next to the drawer glide.
Step 13: Remove the Legs
This provides enough of a gap for air circulation below the mattress, but will put it as close to the floor as possible.
Step 14: Assemble the Crib With the Modified Rail
Mount the rail assembly onto the open side of the crib. The fixed rail is attached to the right-hand end panel normally, with dowel pins and bolts at the top and bottom.
Step 15: Attach the End-panel Moulding
Remove the moulding, and drill 3/32" pilot holes at each of the marks, 1" deep, using a drill-stop on the bit. Attach the moulding using #8x1-1/2" wood screws.
Step 16: Mind the Gap (1)
Drill 3/32" pilot holes through the mattress support panel at each screw location. Attach the moulding to the panel with #8x1-1/2" wood screws.
Step 17: Prepare End-stop for Moving Rail
If not, mark the locations with a pen on either side of the dowel pin, and use them to identify the center for drilling.
Drill 5/16" holes into the moulding at those centerss, deep enough for the dowel pins to fit all the way in (at least 1/2"; use a drill-stop to avoid going too far). The moving rail should now close the crib completely, and the dowel pins should slide in and out without resistance. If the pins are tight, open up the holes with a 3/8" bit.
The upper corner of the moving rail isn't stable. Position the dowel pin centered on the end-panel moulding as shown in the picture.
Step 18: Secure the Fixed Railing
Step 19: Receiver Hole for Locking Pin
The marking must be "perfectly" aligned with the angle bracket, horizontally and vertically. You may want to use the locking pin itself as a guide, tracing around the tip where it touches the panel.
Move the rail out of the way, and drill a 1/2" hole through the mattress-support panel at the mark. This hole needs to be aligned with and parallel to the 1/4" hole in the angle bracket: you may want to drill a 1/4" hole first with the rail closed, passing the bit through the angle bracket, and enlarge it to 1/2" in a second pass.
Insert the aluminum spacer tube into the hole. It should fit tightly; if not, pull it out, apply a thin bead of epoxy around the end you insert first, and put it back in. If you use epoxy on the spacer, wait for it to dry completely before testing the locking pin.
Step 20: Insert the Locking Pin
If you pull the spacer tube out with the pin, go back and reinstall it with epoxy.. The pin should catch on the angle bracket, making it less likely to be misplaced. You may want to secure the locking pin to the bottom rail with a short lanyard, through the hole in the handle.
I secured the locking pin to the angle bracket using a 1/4" retaining clip. I used a rotary (Dremel) tool with a cutting disk to make a shallow groove 1-1/8" from the end of the locking pin.. After putting the pin through the angle bracket, slide the retaining clip onto the tip and work it down to the groove.
Step 21: Mind the Gap (2)
The foam can be attached permanently with "Gorilla Glue" or some similar adhesive; be sure that it doesn't extend past the inner edge of the mattress support panel.
Step 22: Safety First -- Keep the Railing Locked
The locking pin I chose has a T-handle and is removed simply by pulling. An alternative would be a push-button release pin (McMaster-Carr 90293A114, $17.99) -- the "two action" removal is more secure, but not as accessible for parents with limited finger dexterity.
Step 23: Safety First -- Cover the Railing Posts
Tie off a free end to the far end of the moving rail, tie off the center of that side at the middle on the fixed rail (you'll need to sew a fabric ribbon onto the bumper), and again at the corner of the fixed rail. When the rail is opened, the bumper will flex and fold, keeping the rail posts covered.
The bumper is not a substitute for observation and common sense. Make sure you know where your baby is and what she is doing, before you start to open the rail and the entire time you're doing so.
Step 24: A Good Night's Sleep
Resources and Additional Information
Parenting With a Disability from the Toronto Centre for Independent Living
Through The Looking Glass, Berkeley, CA
Crib Safety for Parents from the
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission