Our vision is to see that all individuals have the opportunity to laugh, learn, play, and grow though an enriching experience with exceptional toys. We make special toys for special people!
PlayAbility Toys designs, manufactures, and sells toys focused on children and adults with special-needs. We make variety of toys with features targeted to benefit various special needs groups including blind and visually impaired, deaf, autistic, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, ADHD, and other cognitive and physical challenges.
We use only the highest quality materials, and our toys are subject to rigorous safety reviews and inspections. Children, families, educators, and therapists who use our toys can be assured that they are safe, fun, and that they will meet the promised developmental objectives. Many of our toys are designed for independent play or to stimulate social interaction.
Product development at Playability Toys focuses on:
- Toys that are designed from a “bottoms-up” approach. Simply put, we listen to the experts in the special needs communities and then design and produce our toys to meet their requirements.
- Toys that are fun! We bring smiles to the faces of children and adults who play with our toys.
- Toys that create interest. Our designs stimulate the senses and expand the environment of children and adults with special needs.
- Toys that promote independent play. Our toys allow children to play, learn, and develop independently.
- Toys are that are safe, well made, and affordable.
PlayAbility employs unique design and production processes that set us apart from other toy producers. Our team of toy makers include individuals who are exceptionally qualified to design and produce specialized, high quality toys. We have also found that a collaborative approach to toy creation where input is received from members of the special needs communities’ results in the creation of unparalleled toys. This collaborative design process allows us to craft unique features that both increase the level of enjoyment for children and adults with special needs and provides various developmental or educational benefits.
PlayAbility Toys recognized that the toy requirements of special needs families, teachers, and others were not being met. This realization along with the joy our staff has found in working with special needs groups is what keeps our staff motivated. The Company is based in Tucson, Arizona where we work closely with many special needs organizations and families. PlayAbility Toys is also proud to have developed a strong internship program with the University of Arizona.
Our toys range from the popular Rib-It-Ball with its unique ribs that make it easy to grab and throw for even for the smallest hands to our best selling Buddy Dog which because of its multiple sensory features was rated the number 1 toy for children on the autism spectrum. Visit our website to see all our toys, in-depth toy descriptions, and even videos featuring many of the toys.
How We Got Started
Ask Bud Fraze, PlayAbility’s founder how PlayAbility Toys started and he says “it’s all thanks to Jacob”, a young boy who was born with the debilitating disease known as Bilateral Anophthalmia.
Bilateral Anophthalmia causes a child to be born without eyes. In 2002, Jacob’s mother called Bud for help. She knew that Bud was dabbling in mainstream toy manufacturing at the time with his friend Bill in the California Bay Area. Jacob’s mother relentlessly asked Bud to design a unique ball for Jacob. She insisted that the ball needed to bounce and roll, but not too far where Jacob could not reach it. She asked that it be light-weight, make noise so it could be located easily and be low-tech, meaning no electronics.
Bud finally gave in and began his adventure into toy-making territory using the same design methodologies that he used in building space craft. With the specifications set forth by Jacob’s mom, Bud designed the Rib-It-Ball and believed his job was done.
The story might have ended there because Bud was unaware of the impact his ball would have on the world of special needs. Unbeknownst to him, Jacob’s ball was sent to the Helen Keller Institute. Shortly after, Bud received a cryptic call urging him to visit and speak with the therapists and teachers. He flew from San Francisco to Manhattan thinking he was visiting to exchange ideas about toys. Upon his arrival, Bud was shuffled into a room where a group of blind children were gathered. They were spread out, entertaining themselves and interacting as usual. The instructor then tossed Jacob’s ball into the middle of the room. It made a fantastic noise that set off vibrations, and the bold colors gleamed. In that moment, every child’s attention turned to the ball! All of a sudden, all of the children began to yell and laugh as they bustled towards the ball. They grasped it, threw it and passed it to each other. Bud watched in awe. He had not prepared for a moment like this. He experienced an epiphany, brought on by watching children experience the joy of play amidst special circumstances. The moment marked by tears became a life changing event.
Today, the profoundness of that moment drives every process and project at PlayAbility Toys.
Reformed and relocated in 2007, to Tucson, PlayAbility Toys continues to grow. Dr. Martin “Marty” Fox, led the company as CEO until January of 2013. His fortuitous meeting and collaboration with Bud made PlayAbility Toys a Tucsonan dream come true. Marty’s PhD in Educational Psychology and EdS in Special Education and Rehabilitation have served as a natural conduit into the realm of special needs toys and games development. Like Bud, he shares a profound admiration for all those involved in working and living with special needs.
“Our main focus is filling the needs of the teachers, therapists and families,” says Marty.Under his leadership the company has developed a threefold increase in product offerings and significantly increased our sales over the last three years. Marty continues as a member of the Board of Directors and is still involved iwith the company in two development.
Marty turned over the reins to Mike Sember as CEO in January of 2013. Mike is an investor and has been a Board member since 2009. For the past year and a half he as been the VP of Development for PlayAbility. Mike brings vast business experience, following nerly 40 years as a Pharmaceutical/Biotech executive. Joyce Lopez, veteran Product Developer, has worked with Bud for 10 years and has considerable experience as a buyer and product developer in the gift and toy industries. She is the child of a deaf adult making her the in-house expert on toy design and development for the deaf. Joyce created two popular products: See-It and Sign-It Levels I and II from conception to finish.