Conference date and location: 24-26 October, 2011, Dundee, Scotland
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Empowering Individuals with Do-It-Yourself Assistive Technology

Amy Hurst and Jasmine Tobias


Assistive Technologies empower individuals to accomplish tasks they might not be able to do otherwise. Unfortunately, a large percentage of Assistive Technology devices that are purchased (35% or more) end up unused or abandoned [7,10], leaving many people with Assistive Technology that is inappropriate for their needs. Low acceptance rates of Assistive Technology occur for many reasons, but common factors include 1) lack of considering user opinion in selection, 2) ease in obtaining devices, 3) poor device performance, and 4) changes in user needs and priorities [7]. We are working to help more people gain access to the Assistive Technology they need by empowering non-engineers to “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) and create, modify, or build. This paper illustrates that it is possible to custom-build Assistive Technology, and argues why empowering users to make their own Assistive Technology can improve the adoption process (and subsequently adoption rates). We discuss DIY experiences and impressions from individuals who have either built Assistive Technology before, or rely on it. We found that increased control over design elements, passion, and cost motivated individuals to make their own Assistive Technology instead of buying it. We discuss how a new generation of rapid prototyping tools and online communities can empower more individuals. We synthesize our findings into design recommendations to help promote future DIY-AT success.

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