Jan 24th, 2022

⚙️ Makers Making Change ⚙️

New GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the most users to take an online DIY assistive technology lesson in 24 hours!

3D Printed Palm Pen Holder

Makers Making Change is an online platform dedicated to empowering people with disabilities through accessible, low cost, DIY technology. On December 3rd they made history with their new Guinness World Records title for the most users to take an online DIY assistive technology lesson in 24 hours! To learn more, read our Q&A with them below and visit them here!

Q&A With Makers Making Change

OSMS: What is Makers Making Change?

Makers Making Change: Makers Making Change is an online platform providing a disruptively low-cost alternative to commercially available assistive technologies. We have an online library of open-source assistive technology, where people can download the blueprints to build a device themselves or connect with one of many volunteer makers in our network who can build it for them. We’re a program of Neil Squire, a Canadian non-profit organization that empowers people with disabilities through technology.

LipSync Sip

3D Printed Key Turner

OSMS: What types of things do Makers Making Change make?

Makers Making Change: Our Device Library has a wide variety of assistive technologies, ranging from simple everyday tools like bottle openers and key turners, to the LipSync sip & puff mouse, to adapted toys. There are over 150 devices that people can choose from, and many of these projects are submitted by people from the community.

Every design in the library is open source, which means the files, build instructions, and information on where to get the components are publicly released for free. Many devices also have 3D printed components, which helps keep the costs low and makes it easier for people to build at home.

OSMS: Congrats on your new GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the most users to take an online DIY assistive technology lesson in 24 hours! What is assistive technology and can you describe the impact your #ATWorldRecord has had?

Makers Making Change: Thank you! We’re so excited to have had such a successfull GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ event! We had more than 3000 people register from over 50 countries.

We organized this event to raise awareness around the need for affordable assistive technology (AT). An assistive technology is any device that helps maintain and improve an individual’s functioning and independence. They address needs around mobility, agility and dexterity, pain, hearing, vision, cognition, among others.

Across the globe, there are over 1 billion people with a disability. 9 in 10 don’t have a device they need. Currently, there is an unmet global need for AT due to cost and accessibility barriers. With #ATWorldRecord, we wanted to highlight this need and share ways people can help bridge the gap through DIY assistive technology.

OSMS: How did Makers Making Change start and become the organization it is today?

Makers Making Change: Back in the 1980s, the Neil Squire Research and Development developed the Jouse, a sip & puff alternative to a standard computer mouse for people with limited or no hand control. It was a commercial device that had a large power box and it could only be used near an outlet.

With the prevalence of touchscreen phones and tablets, the Jouse became an unsuitable mouse alternative because it wasn’t portable. In 2016, the Neil Squire received a Google.org grant to modernize this sip & puff device and make it open source and 3D printable so makers can build it at home. This device became our flagship device, the LipSync.

Since then, Makers Making Change has expanded to developing other open source, 3D printed assistive technology. We now have a dedicated staff team and over 42 volunteer chapters across Canada and the US who are bringing DIY assistive technology to their community. Earlier this year in March, we hit a milestone of hosting our 150th build event.

OSMS: What are the biggest challenges you see in bringing an idea to reality and how do you overcome them?

Makers Making Change: There are several challenges that we face when designing DIY assistive technology.

One of the most important things for us is involving device users and disability professionals throughout our design process so we address their specific needs. It can seem easy to design assistive technology, but without involving the users in the ideation and testing, we won’t ever know how the device will actually work. There’s a lot of thought and research that goes into each design, and luckily we have a large network of people we can rely on for design support.

Related to this, balancing the user’s needs with material cost constraints can be tricky. To successfully design a DIY AT, we have to use easily found and cost-effective components and hardware so anyone can build the device. This involves making many prototypes and using clever ‘hacks’ to get around tech constraints.

Adapted Bubble Maker Toy

OSMS: What role does Makers Making Change have in improving our society’s health and well being?

Makers Making Change: Organizations like Makers Making Change aim to enable people with disabilities through a platform where they have a greater say in the assistive technology they’re using. We also help get these ideas to a much broader audience to scale up the impact from these ideas. By working with a volunteer maker, device requesters have the ability to customize their device so it addresses their needs. If the device library doesn’t have the device they’re looking for, we also have a place where they can submit their idea and work with a maker to turn their idea into an actual device.

OSMS: Why is being an open source organization important to you?

Open source is central to the work we do with DIY assistive technology. It allows us to share designs freely so anyone can build the devices and benefit from it. It also lets us collaborate with similar organizations and change makers in the DIY AT sphere so we can build upon each other’s work and contribute it back to the community.

OSMS: Where do you see Makers Making Change being in 10 years?

Makers Making Change: The next 10 years is very hard to predict as it’s an evolving journey to say the least. Over the past few years the concept of DIY Assistive Technology has really started coming to the forefront of the industry. We now see talks at conferences regularly and people generally understand what it means. Even the concept of a 3D printer seemed foreign 5 years ago, and now they’re everywhere from Makerspaces, to schools, to public libraries and even in more and more peoples homes. I think we’ll see DIY AT become mainstream as a solution option that’s even easier to access. With the speed of technology development, there will be so many more refined solutions for people to access, and many more people involved as technology continues to become easier and easier to work with and implement. It’ll be an exciting 10 years if nothing else.

3D Printed Braile Slate and Stylus

Pursa 3D Printer

OSMS: How can people get involved with Makers Making Change and what types of skills do you need in order to contribute?

Makers Making Change: Makers Making Change is an inclusive and welcoming community. We’re open to makers of all skill levels, whether you’re just getting started on your maker journey or you’re a professional engineer who wants to contribute your tech skills during weekends. Many of the devices involve 3d printing, CAD, electronics, soldering, mechanics, and design.

There are several ways of getting involved with Makers Making Change. Volunteers can take on fulfilling device requests from people with disabilities, tackle a design challenge and design a device from a submitted idea, or start a chapter in their area to bring DIY AT into their community.

Join the community at www.makersmakingchange.com

The 2017 Access Makeathon in Vancouver, BC

To share your story or for other inquires email amelia@osmsbc.ca!