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When their daughter Rebecca was born in 2016, Jacob and Beth Lacourse were overjoyed. But the couple from Middleborough, Massachusetts, wasn’t ready for the sad news that came next.
Rebecca was born deaf and is now 2 years old. The family did everything they could to learn sign language and change their lives to meet the needs of their daughter.
But just as things were getting back to normal for the family, the Lacourses found out that Rebecca has a rare disease called Usher Syndrome, which affects not only her hearing but also her balance and vision.
“It was terrible. Jacob, 38, tells that he and his wife went through a period of mourning and felt like a part of their daughter had died.
“For a few days, we were both very sad, but then we realized, ‘Oh, this is who she is. We’re going to make it work.’ I like making the world work for her.”
And adapt he did.
When Rebecca’s family found out that she was losing her sight and would probably be completely blind by the time she was a teenager, Jacob knew he had to do whatever he could to help his daughter.
“There weren’t many toys on the market for kids who were blind or had trouble seeing,” he says.
“When a child is born with normal sight, they are surrounded by language, and they have little toys with letters and words, so we decided to make Rebecca her own toy.”
The loving dad, who works as an engineer at a tech company, set to work making a toy that would teach his toddler words in braille. It is called the BecDot.
It is a rectangular box that is 3-D printed and uses small, colorful toys and letters to teach kids braille words.
“She plays with it all the time. When she puts the toy on it, it will light up.
She gets really excited because the toy makes noise,” Jacob says of his daughter, who has a cochlear implant that enables her to hear.
“If you put a cow on it, it goes “moos,” which she loves. When she puts a toy on it, the dots light up to help her figure out what the toy is.
The toy works with an app that lets parents teach the device words. And Jacob says he wants to make the toy affordable so that kids who can’t see can buy it anywhere.
“I want to make it as low-cost as possible to make it accessible for children in underserved countries,” he tells.
“There are many blind kids today… I’m making this for less than $100 so that children who might not be able to afford it can have it.”
Jacob is still working on the BecDot because he wants it to be made for a large number of people.
TODAY says that he recently brought the BecDot to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it won the Not Impossible Limitless Award.
He is glad that the invention he made for his little girl can help other children. And Jacob tells that he and his family will always try to find ways to make Rebecca’s life better.
“I wanted to make a toy that was really fun and interactive, so that if a blind child was playing with it, a sighted child might come over and play with it too.
We want a blind child to feel like he or she is part of the group.
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