About this project
UnbuckleMe is a patent pending invention by Barbara Heilman, an Occupational Therapist, and her daughter Becca Davison. It is a small plastic tool that makes it easier to unbuckle a standard child's car seat buckle. It is an accessory that remains detached from the car seat, for safety reasons, but can be stored in an accessible location inside the car.
Today's child car seat buckles require 9 lbs of force to release, to ensure that young children cannot unbuckle themselves. However, many adults are also unable to apply the required pressure, due to weakness, pain or just discomfort.
UnbuckleMe is a small plastic tool that uses leverage to reduce the force needed by more than 50% (*we have measured this!) The body of UnbuckleMe will be made of a lightweight polypropylene (same material as your toothbrush) and the handle & peg will be covered with a soft, "grippy" material that will provide additional comfort and stability.
UnbuckleMe has been designed to fit perfectly around the standard "square" buckle that is manufactured in the USA by Indiana Mills Manufacturing, Inc. (IMMI). This buckle is the most common in the marketplace, and is used by infant and child car seat manufacturers including Graco, Chicco, Britax, Clek, UPPAbaby, Nuna, Recaro, Diono and many others.
UnbuckleMe provides a safe, convenient method for parents and grandparents to feel comfortable and confident taking their children on-the-go. From arthritis, to carpal tunnel syndrome, to De Quervain's, to stiff joints, to long fingernails... there is a range of people who will be thrilled when they learn how EASY it is to unbuckle the car seat with UnbuckleMe.
UnbuckleMe was designed by an Occupational Therapist, who is also a grandmother with arthritis in her thumb. Barbara applied her knowledge of hands and arthritis patients to design UnbuckleMe in a way that offers various methods for use, depending on individual preference.
UnbuckleMe uses a simple 3 step process: (1) Slide, (2) Pinch and (3) Pull Down.
1. SLIDE: Slide the base of UnbuckleMe behind the buckle.
2. PINCH: Stabilize the base with fingertips and pinch the two ends together.
3. PULL DOWN: Pull UnbuckleMe in a downward direction to release the buckle.
UnbuckleMe is designed to offer several methods of pressing the lever arm. If the "pinch" method above is uncomfortable for you, there are other methods below:
UnbuckleMe has also been tested on a range of push-button strollers and high-chairs with great feedback. If you'd like us to test UnbuckleMe on a specific brand, send us a message and we'll do our best to find one, test it and let you know how it works.
When not in use, it is recommended to store UnbuckleMe in an easily accessible location that is out of reach of a child. The side door pocket is a great spot.
However, we heard from many of our testers that they wanted a way to attach it to a keychain, or string. We have updated our design to include a small loop on the "neck" of UnbuckleMe, that will not interfere with function. This can make it easier to clip it to the inside of a diaper bag, or hang on a hook inside the house or garage, if this is convenient.
We caution against storing UnbuckleMe too close to the car seat, in case young children or older siblings can reach and unbuckle at inappropriate times. UnbuckleMe should also not be attached to the car seat itself, or stored anywhere that could be a projectile while the vehicle is in motion (think: low places are better than high places). Keep an extra one in your glove compartment for emergencies!
"I was impressed with how little effort it took to release the buckle!“
“Fabulous. Made it so easy getting our Granddaughter out of her car seat. Thank you!!!”
"Oh my gosh I love this thing, this is the best."
“We think this product is a hit!! My mother who has Parkinson’s was able to use it to unbuckle my son without umpteen frustrated tries… that means the world to both of us.”
"I am THRILLED with how the prototype turned out! It is so easy to use! Much easier on my wrists and super handy!"
"Holy cow! It not only works but I barely even had to use any pressure or anything. That was amazing."
“I love the UnbuckleMe and will use it everytime.”
“We love it!!! You ladies are wonderful.”
“We loved the versatility of it. Each of us liked a slightly different method.”
"Works like a charm!"
"Many of my hand patients struggle with activities of daily living that require sustained pressure with their thumb. This product could help those patients who care for young children." -- Dr. Idris Gharbaoui, M.D., Orthopedic Hand Surgeon
"I see so many women in our clinic with CMC joint arthritis that would benefit so much from this device." -- Dorit Aaron, OTR, MA, CHT, FAOTA
To remain safe, adults must be able to safely operate their children's car seats. This includes both buckling them up, and unbuckling them at the appropriate times. We have heard that some parents or grandparents are not fully buckling the car seats because it's "too hard to open". This is dangerous, and UnbuckleMe is here to help these adults feel comfortable operating the car seat properly and safely. In addition, UnbuckleMe is an important safety tool to ensure that adults are able to quickly get their child out of a car seat in case of an emergency.
Did you know that three major car seat brands, including Graco and Evenflo, have recalled more than 5 million car seats since 2014 for problems related to ease of buckle release? It's extremely important that adults are able to quickly, and easily unbuckle their children from the car seat.
After becoming a new grandmother in 2015, Barbara began to help her daughter, Becca, with childcare when Becca returned to work. But she quickly realized that because of arthritis in her thumb, she was unable to push the button of the car seat. As a result, she avoided taking her granddaughter out of the house, which was getting dull for both of them. She knew there had to be a way to feel more confident and comfortable taking her granddaughter out in the car, so she invented a solution.
Her daughter Becca recognized a bigger market opportunity for her mom’s invention, and is driving the business and marketing strategy behind UnbuckleMe. They attended the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas in October 2016 and received outstanding feedback for their early prototypes. Following months of design work since then, they are thrilled to be launching UnbuckleMe on Kickstarter!
Barbara's expertise as an Occupational Therapist has guided the design efforts behind UnbuckleMe. We have worked with a local engineer in Houston to refine our designs, create preliminary CADs for 3D printing, and test & improve our models. We have also worked with an Iowa-based manufacturing company to enhance our CADs for manufacturing, ensuring that we will be able to produce UnbuckleMe as efficiently as possible through injection molding. We have discussed materials, textures, colors, costs and time frames, and we are now fully prepared to seek financial support to take the next big step: to order our tooling and initiate our first big production run.
Our computer assisted design (CAD) drawings are complete, and UnbuckleMe is ready to be manufactured, with your support! The blue color below represents the portion that will be covered with a softer material, for greater comfort and stability. Note: The blue here is for illustrative purposes only. The color of the entire manufactured product will be consistent (e.g., coral red).
We are excited to offer our first production batch of UnbuckleMe to our backers, including multiple product bundles at various price points. The current color will be coral (similar to the photos here, but not exactly). The color will be bright and easy to find in your car/purse. We hope you will consider buying extra to share with family, friends and anyone else who struggles with the buckle!
We are so grateful for every pledge! If we are able to meet our stretch goal of $15,000, we are eager to unlock two additional colors for our backers: lime green and aqua blue. If we meet this stretch goal, every backer will receive a survey at the completion of our campaign, and will be asked to indicate a color preference between coral red (original color) and the two additional unlocked colors. Backers who have ordered multiple UnbuckleMe's can select different colors within the same order.
We have thought carefully about our timeline, and reviewed with our manufacturing partners. We anticipate delivery to backers by August 2017 at the latest.
Thank you to our sweet daughter/granddaughter for patiently modeling in our video & photoshoots over the past several months.
Thank you to Kris Lloyd for graciously helping us with videography.
Thank you to Al Heilman Art for our product photography.
Thank you to Jamie Grayson for supporting us in our early days, and giving us a social platform to test market demand, and connect personally with individuals who need our product.
Thank you to all of the amazing entrepreneurs that we've met during this journey, who have freely given their time and energy to share advice and encouragement to help us succeed.
Thank you to all of our product testers. We appreciate your support so much!
Risks and challenges
This is our first time bringing a new product to market, and we know there are risks/unknowns associated with doing anything for the first time. However, we are committed to this project, and will continue to dedicate ourselves fully to resolving issues as quickly as possible if they arise. We have chosen high-quality partners with strong references, and we fully expect them to deliver within our agreed time frames.
Communication is our strong suit, and we have worked very hard to be transparent to all of our supporters throughout this process. If we anticipate any delays in our production and delivery schedule, you'll be the first to know.
Because UnbuckleMe will remain detached from the car seat, we have confirmed with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that there are no required safety tests.
We have decided to manufacture in the USA to ensure maximum quality control, and continue to move as quickly as possible.
We are incredibly grateful for the support of our backers, and we encourage any to contact us at any point for updates, or to address any concerns. Our goal is to deliver a high quality, functional product to you as soon as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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