Woman with baby and oversized diaper bags
Woman with baby and oversized diaper bags

Designed from a Purpose, A Tote Bag for All

When I was a new mom, attempting to navigate the outside world with my baby, there were so many new stressors and logistics that I never saw coming.  Looking back, I remember two challenges like they were yesterday.  The first was constantly having to figure out how to safely balance a chubby baby on my left hip while also carrying a massive diaper bag on my shoulder, all while steering an unwieldy stroller.  Well-meaning people would come up and tell me to enjoy these years because they go by so quickly.  All I could do was force a strained smile in return.

The second challenge was finding the right pain remedy for my back. It was out-of-whack All. The. Time. New moms go from never having to carry anything heavier than their purse, to suddenly having to haul around an infant and all its artillery, usually while walking or standing at an exaggerated tilt, carefully crafted to balance everything she’s holding. I could tell, back then, that diaper bag manufacturers had never raised a newborn and had no empathy for new moms or their backs. Every bag they made was large enough to hold enough stuff for the average mom and her infant to survive inside Whole Foods during a zombie-apocalypse for a week, if necessary.

I didn’t need to bring the entire diaper bag in with me whenever I ran errands, but I did anyway.  My valuables were inside, scattered amongst sundry baby items, all of them difficult to find quickly. I only needed my wallet, my kid, some wet wipes, and a diaper. I would have loved to have had a second, mini-diaper bag about a third the weight and size of a regular diaper bag, that was big enough to fit the essentials so that I could leave the huge diaper bag with the ten diapers, teething toys, extra clothes, and all that other stuff either tucked in the bottom part the stroller or back in the car. One with a handle that could easily be configured to either hang off both stroller handles or transform into a crossbody strap. That bag would have been the bomb.


I filed this idea in the back of my brain until 15 years later, when I took my teenage daughter to the Texas-Mexican border. We were part of Operation Brownsville, a group of Americans who were providing meals for asylum seekers that were camping out on the Mexican side of the border while waiting for their asylum appointments within the US.

While we were sitting in the bus station in Brownsville, waiting for other Operation Brownsville members to arrive, one woman caught my attention. Her arms were flailing above her head as she was trying to access the bag hanging off the back of her wheelchair. She managed to obtain the bag and its contents but was then left holding it on her lap until her caregiver came back, in no mood to try to attempt the bag’s return by herself.

I looked closer and noticed that her bag was just an average, everyday tote bag. Also hanging off the back of her wheelchair was a run-of-the-mill backpack. I wondered if a bag existed that would have served her better, but she just didn’t know about it.  Wheelchair users should have a specific bag made for their needs, so they’re not stuck making do with backpacks and tote bags designed without wheelchair users in mind.  As I soon learned, there aren’t a lot of bags made for wheelchair users. Even though 1 in 4 Americans have a disability, the community is still underserved.

As I watched this woman and her caregiver get her belongings resituated, I started thinking about and designing a new bag that would accommodate both the woman and her caregiver.  She needed a bag that could be reconfigured so that it could hang in different locations on her chair. It needed to be easily accessible and small enough to hang from the arm but big enough that it could fit an iPad and other necessities. The straps needed to be configurable so they could lengthen or shorten, turn into two handles on each side to hang off both wheelchair handles or just one big crossbody strap. It needed large rings on both the top and bottom of the bag for the straps to snap onto easily. The rings on the bottom could be used for clipping and hanging other items, such as keys or pepper spray.  To prevent theft, one strap could attach to a bottom ring and serve as a safety strap to keep the bag securely attached to the chair.


Later that week, I was at a busy restaurant, and I saw a mom standing at a severe tilt with a monster sized diaper bag draped over her shoulder and her baby on her hip. She was trying to balance her food order in her free hand, her face a mask of intense concentration as she struggled to get it all safely back to her table without everything tumbling to the floor. A nearby stranger jumped up to help carry the food so she could make her way back more easily to her table, taking care not to bump people on the head with her huge diaper bag along the way.

Once again, I thought about a smaller more versatile bag. A smaller bag would have made her life so much easier; one big enough to carry her valuables but small enough to not give other diners concussions as she walked between tables.  She needed a bag that had a strap that could be configured to hang off both stroller handles but then be quickly reconfigured as a crossbody strap so that it could be used as a regular purse.

A few years later, while on my journey designing this versatile bag, I was in a restaurant, and I noticed a woman in an electric wheelchair sitting nearby. It had a tall headrest with no handles. Hanging off the back of the headrest was what looked like a regular purse. The handle of the purse was too long so a knot had been tied in it to shorten it, which had to have felt uncomfortable to the back of the chair occupant’s head. To keep the purse from getting stolen, a rope secured the purse to the chair. From what I could tell, there was no way for the woman to get to her purse, so she was completely reliant upon her caregiver to access its contents for her.

Unfortunately, my design was still in the prototype stage so giving her one of my bags was not an option. It would have solved so many of her bag’s issues though. The strap system can be shortened without the need for a knot. One of the straps could have clipped to a bottom ring and been used to not only secure the bag to the chair, but also serve as a way for her to pull the bag around to the front.  The flap would have made it impossible for pick-pocketers to easily reach in and grab the bag’s contents. She could have also configured the straps to hang the bag off the chair’s arm. With zippers on both sides of the bag rather than the top, the arm wouldn’t have gotten in the way when trying to access the bag’s interior. Plus, not to brag, but my bag looked way cooler than that purse.

Observations such as these, as well as my own experiences, were the inspiration behind the Handie Totie Bagz design. The multi-functionality of the bag and configurability of the Handie Totie Bagz handle, benefit anyone in any situation. Whether you’re a wheelchair or walker user, parent needing a smaller, more useful stroller bag, or just someone who likes its messenger bag look, this bag will add both style and convenience to your life.

Add Your Heading Text Here

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *