Category Archives: Do It Yourself (DIY)

Thankful for Assistive Tech!


Happy 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 budget 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 Technology
  • 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.
    • 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 disability
  • And some more ideas:
    • Loc Line Switch Mounts (PDF)
    • Make a Mouse House

And 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.

A 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!

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.

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?