Category Archives: Do It Yourself (DIY)

Parenting with a Disability


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Laura holding a sleeping baby. His head on her chest and her cheek resting on his head

Several nights ago, as a newly married couple, my husband and I were lying in bed talking about our desire to have a baby.  We both are confident that we are fully capable of having a child, taking care of a child and being amazing parents.  Yet, as we were having this discussion the issues of lack of information about parenting with a disability and social stigma came up.  Although both of us had been around babies and young children, neither one of us has much experience with the day-to-day tasks of childcare.  I have been told many times that I am not capable of being a parent, or should consider adopting an older child.  As a person in a wheelchair with Cerebral Palsy, I found that many of the parents with children in my world were overly cautious when it came to allowing me to hold and care for their babies.  As a result, I don’t have much experience with feeding, or changing a diaper, or lifting a child because they were always carefully placed in my lap and I was watched with a careful eye.  We know if we do become pregnant that we will have to educate ourselves, practice, and find assistive technology (AT) that will meet our needs as parents.

For this reason, I am so excited that the Michigan Assistive Technology Program is holding a webinar on “Assistive Technology for Parenting with a Disability” on April 27th.  Preparing for the webinar has been extremely informative, but also a bit of a roller coaster ride emotionally, as so little is written on the topic, and much of what is written focuses on the challenges of parents with disabilities, the debate about whether they should be parents at all, and stories of parents who have lost custody of their children on the basis of disability.  However, finding resources like Through the Looking Glass, that provides trainings and publications on the topic or the Disabled Parenting Project which highlights assistive technology for parenting, a support community and more, have given me hope and confidence.  Even more encouraging are the stories we have heard from parents with disabilities, describing the ways they have used both commercially available products and their own ingenious modifications or methods to handle childcare tasks.  We hope that you will register and join us for this innovative webinar that will challenge stigma and show that people with disabilities are, and can be wonderful parents.

Are you a parent with a disability?  We would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment below.


Thankful for Assistive Tech!


paper with "Happy Thanksgiving!" and fall leavesHappy Thanksgiving everyone from everyone at Michigan Assistive Technology Program! We all have so much to be thankful for this year, and with Thanksgiving coming in a few days, I am thankful for devices I use just about everyday.

First of all, I’d be lost with out some devices for low vision. For me, it’s not a technical disability, just eyes which are aging. I would be lost without Control plus the + key to enlarge websites so I can read the text.  I would not be able to indulge my creative side without magnifiers for those small seed beads and my Ott light.  For reading, my Kindle and the ability to enlarge the text size has me reaching more often for this digital text than the traditional books.

As I was just reminded, the auto-correct as typing for spelling errors in Firefox settings is great! I often mistype and well, sometimes just can’t spell words correctly. For that matter all spell check is wonderful.  Voice input too! A combination of meeting needs related to low vision and can’t spell, I use the voice button on my android phone more and more, especially when I can’t find or just don’t want to pull out my reading glasses.

I am grateful for bright light therapy! When I have trouble sleeping, a lifelong issue, I become unfocused and forgetful. I have delayed phase sleep syndrome, (I am a real night person) which is only a disability if you don’t have a night job I suppose. I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) I use a light box this time of year to keep my circadian rhythm on track.  I have the Amazon Echo and like to start the day asking “Alexa, what’s on my calendar?” so I don’t forget appointments. Thank you Google calendar and Alexa! Thank you for all devices and techniques to help me remember!

I am short, and no, that’s not a disability! It can be an advantage, like if you are on a budget5 different reachers airplane for example – leg room? No problem!  However, there are some situations and environments built for so called “average height” people that don’t work for me. For example, we have a four wheel drive electric vehicle which doesn’t have adjustable seats. So I’ve duck taped a block of wood on the accelerator petal so I can reach it with out sitting on the edge of the bench seat. Grateful for duck tape, yes!  I also have a reacher I use to get things down off tall shelves and to reach for things like socks that fall behind the dryer.

With chronic neck and shoulder pain, I sometimes have trouble reaching by back to wash or apply lotion, so I am grateful for longer handle brushes and lotion applicators.

I know there are more devices I am thankful for, but need to get going! A busy week for everyone I am sure. What AT are you most thankful for? Have a wonderful holiday!


Make and Take Assistive Tech and more DIY!


Make and Take Assistive Technology Workshops

By MATP Staff Member Kathryn Wyeth

Norm’s post last week, Bricolage and Assistive Technology, reminded me of the idea of having “Make and Take” assistive technology (AT) workshops. I know schools, AT Programs, and other organizations around the country have held these sessions.

In a Make and Take workshop, an organization arranges the instructions and materials, finds a room to hold the session. Then people sign up, often paying to cover the cost of materials, come to session and have fun working alongside others to make an assistive technology device. The best part is they can take it home at the end of the session.

Sessions range from making a device to reach items on a shelf, to adding a switch to a toy for a child with a disability. They also range from small to major design competition events! Some ideas I found when searching the web were:

  • DIYAbilities Teaches Maker Skills and Adaptive TechnologyAlien toy being modified with switch access
  • Design-athon,
  • UCP’s Life Labs

There are a number of sites where you can find instructions for making your own assistive devices. Here are just some examples:

  • AT Solutions (ATS): creates an environment that fosters the innovation of new assistive technology. It archives and disseminates information, particularly engineering information and fabrication instructions sufficient to replicate assistive technology devices with local fabrication resources.A drawing of a desk with a lazy susan turn table on it
    • Desktop Lazy Susan
    • 3 Ring Binder Opening Tool
  • “Make:” Website has many DIY (Do it Yourself) Projects, for example: Hack a Video Game Controller for Greater Accessibility
  • A lot of ideas on Pinterest!
    • DIY OT
    • DY Assistive Technology
    • Disability DIY inventions
  • From “Instructables” web site
    • Custom Adapted Spoon
    • Adapted Door Lock
    • Homemade Switch Activated Pouring Measuring Cup Instruction Sheet
  • Lifekludger: gadgets, hacks & kludges for people living with disabilityMaking a mouse house
  • And some more ideas:
    • Loc Line Switch Mounts (PDF)
    • Make a Mouse House

Therese WilkinsonAnd of course, I have to mention the two books by Therese Willkomm, who is with the New Hampshire AT Program: Assistive Technology Solutions in Minutes.

I thought this would be a short blog post, but really am finding an ever expanding world of ideas! For more, I recommend this blog post from the RESNA site: “Looking for a Good: DIY Design Idea?”

So, are you interested in attending or better yet holding a “Make and Take” Assistive Technology workshop? Let’s talk!

Do you know of other great DIY or hacks for Assistive Tech? Let us know!

Other Related MATP Blog Posts:


Bricolage and Assistive Technology


By MDRC Executive Director Norman G. DeLisle

There have been a spate of recent articles with the general theme of the irony of developing Assistive Technology which then lets cities and other environments off the hook for becoming accessible (an example is The Exoskeleton’s Hidden Burden). It is difficult to know what the takeaway from this viewpoint is, since no one is suggesting that people with disabilities remain isolated and technology free until the entire world is fully accessible. Everybody gets that you don’t sacrifice your personal autonomy while waiting for your social overlords and national elites to do their moral duty.

At any rate, I started thinking about individual development of AT for oneself and one’s personal social community, and that got me to thinking about bricolage.

Bricolage is a French loanword that means the process of improvisation in a human endeavor. The word is derived from the French verb bricoler (“to tinker”), with the English term DIY (“Do-it-yourself”) being the closest equivalent of the contemporary French usage. In both languages, bricolage also denotes any works or products of DIY endeavors.[1][2]

Bricolage or tinkering is a deep and ancient method that humans use to solve their immediate problem by using what’s available right around them. People with Disabilities (PWD’s) use stuff around them all the time, including people, to achieve their immediate life goals. Life would be unmanageable if we didn’t do this, whether we self-identify as a PWD or not. This idea of working to access the world around you through your own effort and your natural supports can be viewed as complementary to the larger scale social effort to transform our environment into a universally accessible world of opportunities. Tinkering is bottom up creation of accessibility and policy and social change advocacy is top down.Tinkering is faster and on its face is customizing to the person or group doing the DIY. But, it is harder to pull lessons for the larger social advocacy efforts out of the success of tinkering.

people working around tablesA Makerspace

I think we need to do a better job of capturing the successes of tinkering and generalizing their availability. To do that we will need Makerspaces like the ones available in geekland for playing with legos, 3-D printing, computer hacking, and similar endeavours. Actually, we should take our cue from the concern about larger environments trying to ignore their accessibility obligations and start by expanding the opportunities of existing Maker communities to include accessibility for PWD to tinker to their heart’s content, sharing their bricolage insights with all of us.


  • The Exoskeleton’s Hidden Burden
  • Wikipedia article on Bricolage
  • O’Reilly Books search page for Maker
  • Do it Yourself: Become an Inventor!