Introduction: Water Scooter for Disabled Child

Picture of Water Scooter for Disabled Child



Sorry, I didn't take pictures during the build of this device, but will try to display the most appropriate picture for each step.

THE PROBLEM: When the family goes swimming, either in a pool or at the lake, my daughter, who has Cerebral Palsy, would either just have to float around in a life jacket, or be carried around by an adult. Either way she had no independence. Also, because she is so skinny and isn't moving around, she would get cold very quickly, even on a warm day.

Step 1: Collect What You Will Need.

Picture of Collect What You Will Need.

Locate a suitable long-shaft, waterproof, battery powered motor. I got mine from Canadian Tire.  It is shown here:

The chair part is useless for most disabled kids as it provides no support, but can be used without the motor so it isn't a total waste.  Please note that I do not work for Canadian Tire or Fluid. 

I know there are no Canadian Tire's in the U.S., but I would think that many outdoors or department stores would carry the Fluid line of products.  That motor is actually used in a few of their products, so should be easy to get.

You will then need to get some pontoons from the old-style water-loungers or something similar, or rig up something yourself.  Check garage sales.  Make sure whatever you use or make is wide and long enough to ensure that it is stable and will not flip over.

Finally, use the seating system from one of your old wheelchairs.  This one is from our daughter's old Kimba stroller.  For obvious safety reasons, we removed all of the belts and restraints.  By doing this, the seating is still adjustable, and can grow with the child.

Step 2: Assemble the PVC Grid.

Picture of Assemble the PVC Grid.

Remove the chair part from the pontoons on the lounger.  Using PVC tubing and adhesive, and stainless nuts and bolts from any home improvement store, build a grid to support the motor shaft and the seat.   

Because you can't cut into the shaft in anyway as you would loose steering, use an appropriate sized rubber hose clamp (pictured) affixed to the grid by stainless bolts and then tightened enough to secure the outershaft without being too tight to crush the shaft or hinder steering. 

I used long bolts to support the seat from the PVC grid, but stainless rod or more PVC would work too.

Step 3: Finish the Seat.

Picture of Finish the Seat.

I then cut a hole through the bottom of the seat to pass the shaft up through. This served two purposes.

One, it relocated the steering to the centre of the seat, as apposed to the original blow-up chair which was on the right, allowing steering by either hand. 

Two, the shaft acts as a pummel, keeping the users legs apart while keeping them inside the seat.  Depending on the size of the child, add foam to the shaft to make it bigger.  Gaffer tape works nicely to cover the foam and hold it all together.  I also added a golf ball to make steering even easier. 

The motor is fired by pushing down on the top of the "steering wheel," which is easy to do, and how it comes stock, so no need to change that.

Basically that's it.  I really can't do into much more detail as the build and cost will be different for everyone, and the parts you collect to do it.  Feel free to contact me at the link above if you want to bounce some ideas or get more detail.  Good luck!

BTW - After two seasons of use my daughter has grown out of this, but it still works great.  It is free to the first person who has a disabled child the right size that can use it safely.  We live near Toronto, Ontario.

Step 4: Scooter in Action

Picture of Scooter in Action

So here it is in action.  Note that she has on a floaty suit for safety and I am always close by.


mp 15-22 (author)2014-12-17

Awesome design and a great way to include all the family in the fun. Keep up the good work.

get a life14 (author)2013-12-25

ur great!!! wonderful dad u r

quiquet217 (author)2012-07-04

you are the greatest dad ever , way to go man , bless you both .

mrwaffles2 (author)2011-09-01


cronus189 (author)2011-08-10

This is such an amazing idea, and for such a great purpose ! Two thumbs up!!!

mikeinbellingham (author)2011-06-30

This is soooooooo cool. Glad there is someone that cares about others with disabilities. You rock!!

jason the redneck guy (author)2011-01-15

i have a party boat thing with speakers and the same motor i got here in germany

jason the redneck guy (author)2011-01-15

canadian noob, eh?

iamaqtpoo (author)2011-01-15

Soo cool, what an inventive & thoughtful Dad!!!

harthoppy (author)2010-12-29


ewilhelm (author)2010-11-22

That looks fantastic!

I see that your daughter has outgrown it, but I'm certain there are tons of kids who want to ride it (I know I would). Snap a picture next time it's in the water.

shawnmelito (author)ewilhelm2010-11-26

Check out step 4. Just added four pics.

canida (author)shawnmelito2010-12-08

Great in-use pics! I bet she has the biggest smile on her face - I sure would.

shawnmelito (author)canida2010-12-09

She certainly did, loved the independance, ability to go where she wanted when she wanted, and the fact she was nice and warm. Not sure if people haven't gotten to the last step, but my daughter has grown out of it, so it is free to someone who has an appropriate child (located near Toronto, Canada).

-Jess- (author)2010-11-25

i tried folowing the link whare you said you got the motor,,, but its not working. at least for me its not.

shawnmelito (author)-Jess-2010-11-26

Sorry, my mistake - I put an extra period at the end of the address. Try it now - should work.

-Jess- (author)shawnmelito2010-11-28

cool, thx.

08techgrad (author)2010-11-19

I'd like to see a video of this contraption working. It may even inspire other families whose loved ones are the same boat (please pardon the pun).

shawnmelito (author)08techgrad2010-11-26

I am kicking myself for not taking video of it when my daughter was using it, now she has grown out of it - sorry about that. I can tell you that it isn't that fast, so it wouldn't be a very exciting video. Check out Step 4 for some pictures though.

scoochmaroo (author)2010-11-22

This is fantastic. Do you have other projects that you could share with us that you've made over the years for your daughter? I'd love to see them!

shawnmelito (author)scoochmaroo2010-11-26

Nothing that is worthy of this site. Mostly modifications or improvements on existing equipment. Sorry.

lebowski (author)2010-11-22

Awesome, very cool. I want one!

Judes736 (author)2010-11-18

I know the maker of this boat personally. I had the pleasure of seeing pictures of this craft early on and I was amazed at how hard he worked at creating something for his daughter that would inevitably bring a smile to her face and at the very least, provide her with some moments of joy in her challenged life. Way to go Shawn! You are an inspiration!

guiassium (author)2010-11-14


Tool Using Animal (author)2010-11-12

No offense, but this thing looks kind of dangerous, what with being proped up on bricks on a plastic table....

Father of the Year Winner!

I am awe struck.

I am in a wheelchair with SMA (spinal muscular atrophy). One of the best memories of my life was the time I went to Lake George, and my parents let me go para-sailing over the Lake. The para-sailing instructor flew with me tandem because we would probably have to land in the water which is 300 feet deep... and I can't swim. Before going up approximately 200 feet in the air, we had to sign all sorts of waivers and the chance of serious injury should something go wrong was very possible. Looking back, it was one of the greatest moments of my life.

People without disabilities do things that are risky from a safety perspective all the time. Riding a bike is dangerous, Kayak boating is dangerous, driving is dangerous, rock climbing is dangerous. Stepping outside your door is dangerous. While one should do everything possible to minimize risk, simply leaving one's home can be dangerous. One should not stop experiencing life simply because there is some risk.

Yes... someone should be nearby in the event this boat flips. But... I think the experience for any kid with a disability to be able to move about on the water... and the freedom and self-confidence that provides is well worth the small risk. You are right about one thing... this dad does deserve father of the year and should be very proud of building something so fantastic for his child. Great job!

I'm not disabled, but nothing would make me climb on that thing, propped up on bricks on a plastic table.

It was a bon mot based on his display method, a butterfly could knock that over.

Hahaha I get it now. You do know he just stuck it up there to snap a photo right? I don't think that he plans to launch the water craft off on the driveway on top of bricks and table. LOL Yes... that does look a little precarious for a photoshoot... but I think it is just fine unless a swarm of butterflies attack. LOL. Those rotten evil butterflies! LOL

Are you serious? It's just propped up on the brick/table for photos. It's a water device.

I want one! Looks like fun.

nieks (author)2010-11-12

No offense, but this thing looks kind of dangerous. with many things, especially when dealing with disabled people, you have to think of the worst case scenario. And with this device, that would be somewhere on the water, not to close to other people, and this thing flipping over. In that case, the disabled person would most certainly drown. Even when other people where standing beside this thing when that happened, it would be very hard for them to get the disabled out of that chair/turn the vehicle back over if that happened.

DarkRubyMoon (author)nieks2010-11-13

I guarantee you, this chair he built looks much safer than the manufactured lift that we have that was built to pick someone with a disability up out of a wheelchair. I agree that careful supervision is needed... but I think the risk is being over emphasized. It is not much more risky than a power wheelchair... and trust me (as someone who has driven one through a wall)... they are much more risky than they appear. Certainly seems safer than the inflatable boat my dad use to sit me on (with the duct- tape to cover the holes LOL)

shawnmelito (author)nieks2010-11-12

Thanks for your comment, I was hoping someone would post something like this so I could detail the safety aspect of the device, but I have also edited the post to include "DIRECT AND CLOSE" parental supervision. Rest assured that (just like with any water toy in use by a child - disabled or not), whenever my daughter used this I was never more than a few feet away and she always had a PFD on.

It is hard to visualize the waterline in these pictures, but the center of gravity for this device is very low and its stance is very wide, so a tip over is virtually impossible. I have seen this device traverse one foot waves from the wake of a boat with no issue at all. That's the biggest waves we see on our lake. That said I wouldn't use it in big chop, out in the ocean, in a wave pool, etc or with a child that was severely disabled. You have to have common sense of course.

Basically, I built it as stable as you can get, but being an ex-lifeguard and experienced sailor, that wasn't enough for me, so I tried to deliberately flip it over by lifting it up past the crest of the biggest waves in shallower water. As hard as I could I could not get it to flip left to right or to the front. I was able to get it to flip back (but not over), but my daughter simply slipped out and the PFD did its work.

Irrespective of disability I am sure there are a million parents who would still say "I would never put my child on one of those." Those are probably the same parents that would never let their child ride a mini dirt bike or kid sized snowmobile on their own and I respect their opinion, I am just not one of them. I believe kids, even disabled ones, need to get out and explore and build their independence, even if there is an element of danger. According to our therapist, my daughter was one of the youngest children she had seen to ever get a powered wheelchair. Yes we have had issues, but her increased self confidence far outweighs those concerns.

Thanks again for all of the posts, both positive and critical.

PaulMakesThings (author)2010-11-12

I would say this thing looks perfectly safe. With the width of the float, even with the height of the chair I would estimate offhand that it would need to tilt at least 60 degrees before it would tip, probably more. Since he isn't going to have the child driving this in a hurricane, I think it'll be fine. I'm a mechanical engineer if that lends any credit to my basic assessment.

shawnmelito (author)2010-11-12

Alright, I have to admit that on that table and bricks it doesn't look that well built or safe, but it was the only way I could display it assembled for a picture. If it had fallen over, it would only have broken my toes, my children were nowhere near such an unsafe photo shoot. In the water, it was VERY stable and reliable.

Thanks again for the kind words and funny posts. This is my first interactive internet post and has been a lot of fun!

paupi (author)2010-11-12

Excelent. Seriously, looks perfectly safe. Even on the bricks XD on top of the table.

cromagnolia (author)2010-11-12

I'm just gonna come out and say it: Best. Parent. Ever.

This really is amazing work! Good on ya!

DarkRubyMoon (author)2010-11-12

Fantastic Job! That looks like it would be great fun :)

biker_trash_1340 (author)2010-11-12

Looks like a lot of fun, Great Job!

Wo0kiE (author)2010-11-11

Kudos man!
I have a great deal of respect for anyone who takes the time to help a child.

dhandel1 (author)2010-11-11

This is awesome. Well done!

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