DIY Assistive Technology

Jon Hook

Assistive technology can be hugely beneficial for people with disabilities. But off-the-shelf products can take a long time to arrive, can be expensive, and may not be adapted to the needs of the individual.

Is DIY assistive technology the answer?

Researchers from Newcastle University’s CultureLab and The Hague University of Applied Sciences interviewed parents, therapists, teachers, charity workers and medical practitioners to find out whether there were examples of people adapting assistive technology, and how many people were doing it.

Approaches to assistive technology were varied. Some had used basic measures, such as modifying a faucet to make it easier to access or putting down a rubber table-mat to stop food spilling. Others were more advanced, such as the parent who adapted the spoon on his daughter’s Neater Eater so that the spoon was rigid enough to pick up food from the plate more easily.

However, researchers learned that parents and practitioners faced several barriers, including lack of confidence and time, worries over durability, concerns over look, safety and worries over repairs

They believe are a few potential approaches to making assistive technology adaptation more widespread.

These include:

– Online communities sharing simple designs that encourage parents to take the first step

– Hands-on demonstrations for parents and professionals

– DIY assistive tech community groups, made up of parents, friends and care-givers

– Freely-available and open courses

– Improving links between parents and care-givers and the local maker community

Making 3D printers available in Maker Spaces and libraries could help parents and medical professionals create the parts needed to get the devices running again quicker, and designs could be shared in local and online spaces.

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