Monthly Archives: November 2014

Do it Yourself AT – Become an Inventor!


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Despite the excitement that comes with discovering a high tech device for assistive technology, I’ve always said that my favorite AT is the do-it yourself (DIY) kind. Not only does it usually consist of things you have around the house or can get at the local hardware store, but it’s also cheap and can be customized for the individual. Just this week alone I have already used a coat hanger to turn on a faucet, binder clips to keep my cords organized, a wooden spoon to reach a light switch, and a simple dowel through the holes of a roller hockey stick to improve my “puck” (ball) handling skills, and duct tape on my wheelchair.Blue roller hockey stick with plastic dowel through the holes near the black of the blade

It often seems as though people who use AT are the best at coming up with these simple DIY projects because we have been improvising our whole lives. This week I received an email from RESNA {Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Association of North America), reminding me of another great use for DIY technology. Often, in developing countries, assistive technology is not commercially available or affordable. For this reason, RESNA is announcing the International Do-It-Yourself Contest. This contest offers applicants the opportunity to show off their designs that could potentially be replicated around the world and win cash prizes.  Rules and instructions can be found by clicking the link above.  Get those creative juices flowing and give it a shot!

What is your favorite DIY technology?


Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and AT


Aimee Sterk, MATP Staff

MDRC staff members have been working on a multi-year collaborative grant from the Office of Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice. Through that work, all of our staff has become more familiar with the services and supports available from the domestic violence/sexual assault prevention and support community. People with disabilities experience sexual assault and domestic violence at a higher rate than the general population and these violations can also lead to disability.

How does this all relate to assistive technology (AT)?

In a variety of ways:

  1. Perpetrators may withhold people with disabilities’ access to assistive technology they need as a means of control.
  2. Perpetrators may monitor conversations of people with disabilities, especially people who are Deaf and use communication devices. This is another means of control.
  3. Many shelters are not accessible and still are developing ways to help people with disabilities access AT when they flee a violent situation.
  4. Sexual assault and domestic violence program staff may not be aware about or skilled in assisting people with disabilities who have intellectual, processing, or communication disabilities.
  5. Apps for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be useful to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. For example, I am a sexual abuse survivor and use T2 Mood Tracker to monitor my symptoms, Gratitude! for mindfulness and have used PTSD Coach.

    an image of the cuff which is actually a black rectangular device the size of a large watch face and several bracelets and pendants made of different materials and styles to wear the device in fashionably

    The Cuff and accessories for wearing it.

  6. There are apps and devices for safety like Circle of 6 which lets you send out messages to your friends like “come get me” and gives your GPS location. Circle of 6 also can connect you to resources. There is also Cuff, a jewelry-based-device that in addition to tracking your steps and location, can be used to call for help.
  7. Survivors who are Deaf and hard of hearing need to know their rights and the systems of help available. Some communication and relay systems keep transcripts of conversations automatically unless the user specifically requests that they don’t. Perpetrators have also impersonated Deaf survivors through electronic communication methods so shelters and survivors may want to develop codes phrases.

Do you know about domestic violence and sexual assault services in your community? Are they accessible? Have they done an accessibility audit? Are they welcoming and able to serve people with all types of disabilities?


Let the Feasting Begin!


images of peeler fitting in handAs I plan my Thanksgiving dinner, I have been thinking about my current favorite kitchen gadgets. I like to make apple crisp in the fall. I’ve actually started a tradition of bringing my neighbors and closer family members apple crisp, as I tend to make too much and like to share! Peeling the apples is a chore though and I am clumsy with standard peelers. I found one that I can use without slicing off parts of my finger skin (which I am sure is appreciated by people who eat the crisp too!). I found my Ez Peeler at a local store. Sometimes peels get stuck under the peeler, so I have to rinse it as I go – a small price to pay!

There are many gadgets and tools which make cooking not only easier but possible for people who have disabilities. The North Dakota Assistive Technology Program just posted many great ideas today in a post on Holiday Cooking on their blog.  My coworkers have also posted blogs about their favorite kitchen tools:

Can you tell we like food, and cooking?

A few years ago, we also held a webinar full of great adaptations for cooking including kitchen design and gadgets. The handouts and recording of the webinar are online:  Tools for Independence: Holiday Cooking.

We wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving and look forward to hearing about your favorite cooking tools!


Are You Highly Visible?


By Aimee Sterk, MATP Staff

My husband has recently gotten very interested in cycling, and as the nights get longer and it is dark so early, I’ve gotten very concerned about his visibility and safety. Visibility for people who use mobility devices is even more of a challenge because often the height of wheelchairs, powerchairs, scooters, and other devices is below eye level for drivers (my biggest concern).

I talked with Ross Schueller at 3rd Coast Cycles in Hudsonville, Michigan about options for increasing visibility that would work well for cyclists and mobility device users. There are several categories of options:

  1. Gear—As Ross pointed out, what matters most is that drivers and others notice the person (not necessarily the bike or chair). The gear you wear can vastly improve visibility. Ross suggests cycling gloves with reflective pieces sewn in so if you are propelling your chair with your hands, or indicating your plans for turning, or waving to get attention, your hands are highly visible and yet protected from the cold. You might also consider safety vests or running and biking gear made for visibility and winter conditions.
  2. Tape—While bike shops have reflective tape, Ross suggested a cheaper option is to visit your local hardware store and buy some of their reflective tape and place it strategically on your device. You could even get artistic and make a cool design (If you do will you send us a picture?).
  3. Lights—Bike shops are great places for “blinkies” of all sorts. They come in long-running LED varieties. You can mount them on your device and/or as my husband does, also mount them on your helmet or head with a strap. When mounted high enough, they provide visibility of you, and for you, as you maneuver the dark streets. Most cyclists put lights on the front and back of their bikes. You might want to do the same and consider the sides as well. I even found blinky light earrings online if you want to really deck yourself out. Laura Hall, MATP staff, is getting a cool set of Bike Brightz for her chair. They are directional and might also help you see where you are going. They are available in a variety of colors.
    an led light mounted on the crossbar of a bike with zip ties

    Installed Bike Brightz

    several bikes in a darkened room lined up with different color lights

    Display of bikes with different colors of Bike Brightz

    a red blinky light with straps for mountinig

    Blinky light with strap and mounting options

  4. Wheels—Ross reminded me that there are some really cool a man on a bike the front wheel has a kaleidoscope of swirling colors. The back wheel has a large blue octopus with red and blue on its forehead.spoke lighting systems for bikes. Your local bike shop may be able to help you install them on your wheelchair. If you have big bucks to spend, you can get some really cool wheels like the Monkey Light Pros (starting around $900/wheel).  If your budget is more like mine, you might want to consider the regular Monkey Light M232s , which come in 42 themes and 64 colors and ranges from $30-$50. Ross dida monkey light spoked wheel with a sunburst colorful design explain that because there is so much variety in wheelchair wheels, sometimes bike-related gear works, and sometimes it doesn’t. You’ll want to check specifications and connect with your local shop. Ross also indicated that sometimes commuter bike tires with reflective sidewalls are a great options for wheelchairs.
  5. Flags—Bike shops that specialize in family bikes and bikes for kids will have some options for flags to attach to your mobility device. Again, it might be cheaper and easier to rig something up yourself from your local hardware store.

How do you deck out your mobility device for safety? Do you get creative for style too?