PowerUp WHAT WORKS: Tech Tip


Take advantage of new technologies, DIY assistive tech, and Maker Culture to create customized solutions for and WITH your students.

  • The photo above is an awesome example of the power of DIY AT - volunteers around the world create 3D printed arms and hands. Check outwww.enablingthefuture.org for more information!

Assistive Tech Specialists are Makers

Assistive technology specialists, special education teachers, occupational therapists, and other related service providers have always been "makers". Whether due to limited funds or limited options to meet the needs of their students, educators of students with disabilities often have to "get crafty" to help support their students - exercise bands stretched across chair legs, repurposed foam pieces for pencil grips, laminated communication boards, or cardboard stands to prop up a tablet (Check out this great Pinterest board for even more cool DIY AT ideas! )

What is Maker Culture?

Maker Culture is a (mostly) technology-supported offshoot of DIY (Do-It-Yourself). The Maker Movement is collaborative, and community-focused with many designs, ideas, programs and plans made freely available (open source). Maker Culture focuses on design, innovation, creative problem-solving, and invention, utilizing both online and in-person MakerSpaces, FabLabs, and HackerSpaces, and coming together to share at both national and local Maker Faires. The Maker Movement shifts the role of the end user from solely a consumer - dependent upon the products and tools available to them in a store - to the inventor, designer, creator, builder and ultimate end user of a product. Something you'd like doesn't exist? Build it!

How is Maker Culture Connected to
State-of-the-Art AT?

In 2010, the National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) surveyed and interviewed experts in the field of AT about the future of assistive technology. Five key themes emerged that painted a picture of "state-of-the-art" AT:

  • Convergence
  • Customizability and Universal Design for Learning
  • Evidence-based
  • Portability and Promotion of Independence
  • Interoperability

Makers, hackers, and DIY-ers are helping to push the future of assistive technology and devices in these areas in creating tools and devices that are highly customized, portable, meet multiple needs, and help to promote user independence, particularly in the potential for users with disabilities to make their own AT. Through increased access to 3D printers, laser cutters, single-board microcontrollers, design plans, and other tools of manufacturing, Maker Culture has helped to democratize the process of manufacturing, allowing anyone with access to computer to build, design, and create personalized and customized products.   

Wherever state-of-the-art AT is headed, it is highly likely that Makers will be there. We've highlighted just a few of the many exciting possibilities in the videos below. Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments!

Involving People with Disabilities in Making

3D Printing


Devices for Daily Living

Resources for AT Makers

Visit PowerUp WHAT WORKS

This Tackk was created by PowerUp WHAT WORKS, a federally-funded project focused on helping teachers use technology tools and evidence-based practices to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Looking for teaching strategies, professional learning opportunities and practical ideas for your classroom? Visit us at PowerUp!