Let’s Adapt for Everyone! Behind the Book with Greg Nakata

Meet Greg Nakata, the creator behind Let’s Adapt for Everyone!, a pioneering guide to adapting toys and devices for people with disabilities. This book not only breaks down the barriers to adapting toys but also serves as a beacon of empowerment for the community, encouraging the spread of these vital skills.

In this interview, we explore the book’s conception, Nakata’s bookmaking and marketing experience, and the remarkable impact his work has had on families, educators, and therapists. This conversation is not just about a book; it’s about a movement toward inclusivity, creativity, and community-driven change. Plus, you’ll get tips and tricks on how you can launch your self-published book into the world.

Can you describe the moment that inspired you to use your architectural skills for adapted designs?

My inspiration is my daughter, who has disabilities. We were first introduced to switch-adapted toys in her therapy sessions. She gets so much joy when she is able to play with a device that has been adapted. I immediately started taking apart toys to see how I could adapt them for her. 

A major part of architecture is problem-solving, finding a solution that takes into account many different factors to produce the best design outcome. By approaching adapting from the lens of an architect I am able to find ways to adapt toys and devices that take into consideration not only function and efficiency but aesthetics and clarity, too.

photo of book dedication page for daughter with disabilities in 'Let's Adapt for Everyone!' by Greg Nakata

What challenges have you faced in advocating for better accessibility standards, and how have you overcome them?

As a licensed architect, I have always advocated for accessibility in my projects because inclusive design benefits everyone. That advocacy now extends to access to adapted toys and devices for folks of all ages with disabilities. For many children, like my daughter, the toys sold in stores are challenging to use without assistance, which limits play and independence. Adapting toys and devices immediately creates a way for individuals to access learning and play.

However, since adapting is done primarily in the secondary market by individuals and companies that cater to those with disabilities, there are a lot of opportunities for profiteering by selling adapted toys way above their original price. I personally find this pricing to be exploitative when you consider that many families can only afford one adapted toy (or have to pool together funds to afford one that could be hundreds of dollars) and how important these accessible items are to child development. 

This is why I wrote my guide to adapting, showing that everyone can adapt. It isn’t a skill that should be gatekept but one that everyone can learn to do. This simple act will increase the number of adapted toys in classrooms, clinics, and homes, making adapting more affordable and accessible to all. 

Why is access and affordability so important to your advocacy? 

As soon as something is marketed to the disabled or for medical purposes, it invariably gets marked up—sometimes 1000%. This makes these items exclusive, and price becomes the barrier to access. I personally cannot understand the justification for profiting off of someone truly in need, limiting their potential and their ability to live their fullest life. These adapted toys are not like other toys. They are sometimes the only toy a child may have that they can fully engage with independently. 

In the foreword of my book, play is described as vital to childhood development. Play is considered a fundamental human right by the UN. With this in mind, it is clear that access to adapted toys should not be exclusive and should be made available without barriers (especially exorbitant cost) in homes, schools, and clinics. This is why teaching adapting is important. It empowers families, educators, and therapists to take toys and devices off the shelf and, for a few dollars, transform them into gateways for play, learning, and independence. 

What’s more, these devices can start to go beyond toys for play and become truly functional items that help build skills as these young individuals grow up, such as an adapted turntable that helps someone access music who then grows up to be a prolific DJ; an adapted bead spinner that assists someone in making jewelry such as friendship bracelets that they can then trade with their friends at a concert; an adapted food peeler that allows someone to be able to participate in food preparation and one day could find themselves as a professional chef with a whole array of adapted culinary devices. 

Adapted devices not only provide independence, preference, and build skills, but also help people achieve a sense of dignity where their potential can be realized by us learning to adapt for everyone. 

cover of the self published book 'Let's Adapt for Everyone!' by Greg Nakata surrounded by common tools used in adapted design

What’s your process behind creating AdaptedDesign tutorials?

Creating adapting tutorials began when I noticed that existing adapting tutorials seemed to skip over critical information, rambling, or too technical, which could be discouraging for someone unfamiliar with the process. I, a beginner to adapting, created these tutorials with beginners in mind, focusing on each step in sequence. I use photos and text in my tutorials, allowing better control over the clarity of the directions. I expand on these directions in my book and provide tips and tricks that I have developed, which have helped me along the way. 

Many of my adapting tutorials come from families requesting devices and toys to be adapted that they aren’t able to find anywhere else online. Many times, this is the first time anyone has seen this particular device or toy adapted online, let alone step-by-step directions on how to do it. I love the challenge of a new item, like a puzzle that needs to be solved, and I am always thinking about how I can better communicate this process to others so they can adapt it as well. 

Your Instagram account is equal parts memes and educational content—and it all gets great engagement. How do you involve the community in your work, and why is this important to you?

Memes have been a great way for me to create relationships with other families in the disability community. The memes that I create focus on inaccessibility and ableism, health insurance companies, challenges with medical equipment, and systemic problems with inaccessibility and lack of inclusion. They are written from my perspective as a parent of a child with disabilities, but I make an effort to make them relatable to and cognizant of the greater disability and caregiving community. I do make a point to never make the joke about the child because the problem is not with them but with society accepting and accommodating them as they are. 

Humor seems to be a great method for coping with difficult issues and these memes have created a lot of connections and community at AdaptedDesign. It is important to me to listen to this community and continue to learn and grow with them. I hope that my content reflects this ethos and that everyone can feel safe, enjoy, and learn from AdaptedDesign as much as I have learned from others. 

preview of 'Let's Adapt for Everyone!' by Greg Nakata showing how to how to adapt laugh and learn puppy

Why did you create Let’s Adapt for Everyone!, and what has the feedback been like?

In my experience, looking for resources for toy adapting were a bit limited. It all felt a bit niche, and some folks were seemingly gatekeeping the information so they could continue to profit by selling adapted toys at a huge markup. As a self-taught adapter, I wanted to share with everyone that adapting could be learned and would have an outsized impact on people’s lives. 

Let’s Adapt for Everyone! is the first of its kind guide to adapting toys and devices, showing all the tools and supplies one would need, what to look for in the store when looking for toys to adapt, and includes a series of step-by-step tutorials for adapting toys for play, devices for craft-making, and devices like a fan that provides thermal comfort. Let’s Adapt for Everyone! has been sold all over the United States and around the world and has become a top resource for groups that already adapt and those just getting started.

The reviews and feedback have been immensely supportive and have inspired many to start adapting for themselves and others. They have even inspired adapting parties with friends and family, adapting toys for schools and clinics using this book. Let’s Adapt for Everyone! has even created opportunities for adapting clinics. 

I recently taught 40 educators, therapists, and administrators in a local school district how to adapt a toy that they could take back to their students. That’s a lot of adapted toys now in the school district that weren’t there before, going to help children with their therapy, learning, and play at a fraction of the cost that they might have paid online. More importantly, many of the attendees purchased copies of the book and now have the skills and confidence to adapt more toys and devices—expanding access to these adapted items. 

In addition to my book, I sell a complete adapting kit to accompany my adapting guide, where all the tools and supplies are in one place. With Let’s Adapt for Everyone! and the AdaptedDesign Adapting Kit, you can start adapting several things right away. 

preview in 'Let's Adapt for Everyone!' by Greg Nakata displaying tools needed to adapt toys

Describe your bookmaking process from writing to layout to final proof copy. Is there anything you wish you knew at the beginning? 

Although I have used Blurb in the past this was the first time I used Bookwright to put together my book. Once I familiarized myself with the software I was able to bring everything together. I had a good idea of the structure of the book but added a lot more images as I continued to refine the book to help guide the reader through every step of the adapting process. 

Why did you choose Blurb? What were the challenges and benefits of the platform?

I first used Blurb many years ago when I wanted a compact and professional way to display my architectural portfolio of works when I graduated from graduate school and was looking for jobs. I liked the speed and quality of the book and knew that I could get a similar product for Let’s Adapt for Everyone! 

With this project, I did have some challenges getting consistency with print quality, and I would choose a different setting next time to help prevent these issues. Overall, I am happy with the platform and generally how straightforward it is to print a book and the ability to make it available to the world. 

How have you marketed your book? Are there any tactics you’d do again (or not)?

My book has been shared primarily on my Instagram and sold both through the Blurb Bookstore and my AdaptedDesign Etsy. Someday, I would like to work with small independent bookstores to sell my book, but in the meantime, I am happy with what I have achieved by word of mouth. 

However, I would love to work towards reaching a greater audience because I know so many of us have the ability to adapt and increase access to these crucial items for the people who need them most.

photo of book self publisher Greg Nakata

What advice would you give to hopeful self-publishers?

Find something you are passionate about that you can speak truthfully about, advocate for others but do not speak for them, and write about something that can help others—bring awareness to an issue and help make things better, especially for those underrepresented or in need. 

Do you have plans for future publications or projects? 

Yes, I am working on another book, but it is in its very early stages and geared towards a wider audience.  


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