Unable to find adaptive gear for her son, this mom started making it herself

Lisa Radcliffe wanted her son and all kids who wear leg braces to have cool designs to choose from, and when she couldn't find any on the market, Radcliffe got creative.

While chatting with her son Buster's orthopedist, she told him that his clunky braces weren't fun, and if "orthotics looked like superhero gear, every kid would want to wear them," Radcliffe told People. "And he said, 'That's a good idea. Somebody should do that.'" Radcliffe worked in tech, but thought it was time to leave that world behind and start her own company to make adaptive gear for kids.

She launched PunkinFutz in 2016, and her entire family is part of the company (its name is derived from Radcliffe's childhood nickname). Buster, 12, is a model, and Radcliffe's daughter Maddie, 25, helps with packaging. Radcliffe's husband, David, works with her on operations. PunkinFutz makes all types of adaptive gear, including wheelchair bags, fidget toys to help build motor skills, and compression vests for children who have sensory issues.

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All of the gear is designed in tandem with occupational therapists. Additionally, about 75 percent of the company's staff has special needs. They share their experiences living with cerebral palsy or being deaf, and that is worked into the products, which are "better because of them," Radcliffe told People. "When we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, you can't really have that conversation and leave out disability, which is what I think we've been doing. So that's a mission for us — making people aware of how much value there is in employing adults with disabilities."

Nationwide, about 80 percent of adults with disabilities are unemployed, which is "abysmal," Radcliffe said. Her goal is to open an adaptive factory in New York City, so she can hire more people with special needs. "This is my life's work," she said. "This is what I need to be doing."

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