Makers Making Change, Hacker Lab & Sierra Makerspaces Assist Disabled Community

On Tuesday, May 22, Hacker Lab and Sierra Makerspaces hosted more than 40 attendees, including 25 disabled adults, at an assistive technology build-a-thon lead by Makers Making Change ( and Communication Technology Education Center (CTEC).  CTEC serves Sacramento, Yolo, Alpine, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sierra, Sutter and Yuba counties and is dedicated to giving people of all abilities a voice to their own journey.

Makers Making Change connects makers to people with disabilities who need assistive technologies. From their website:

Makers Making Change offers a platform for makers (engineers, hobbyists, students, corporations, etc.) to volunteer their time to make an access solution from our projects library. People with disabilities, their family members, or disability professionals can request a project that they feel will help address a person’s barriers.

You may freely download the designs and skilled volunteers in your community can work with the recipient in ensuring the project meets their needs.

Our platform enables everyone to publish and share open-source assistive technology designs, made both by our organization and other makers. People can share access challenges, solutions, and review existing projects.

The event created custom designed keyguards, to be overlaid onto an iPad using touch screen tablet communication programs, for adults with verbal and auditory disabilities.   The keyguards enable user accuracy of button touching on a given touch screen device; preventing finger slipping, which can lead to messages being inaccurately conveyed.

CTEC approached Hacker Lab powered by Sierra College several months ago because their clients required a variety of customized keyguards that interfaced with communication software products.  Commercial keyguards were expensive and took weeks to receive, and staff needed a better solution. Early prototypes were developed by Sierra Makerspaces creative consultant, Heather Lincoln, using cardboard.  Once the keyguard overlay was tested on the iPad using specific software applications, final versions were laser cut using clear acrylic.

At the build-a-thon, members of the Hacker Lab community, Sierra Makerspaces team members, Makers Making Change and CTEC staff and community volunteers worked together using two laser cutters to produce custom acrylic keyguards for all participants. 


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