Bay Area Make-A-Thon

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by Kim Lathrop, Administrative Assistant, CFILC

As an individual with extreme physical limitations (I was born without arms or legs) I have become more than acquainted with assistive technology and special mechanisms made with the intentions of making my life easier.

I say ‘intentions’ because the people who are behind the creating/making process are usually not people with disabilities. People without disabilities cannot begin to understand our day-to-day needs, the challenges we face nor the obstacles that surface in our path. For a huge chunk of my adult life I have always said, “I wish people with disabilities were behind the making process because we know our own needs better than anyone.”

And, after years of hoping and wishing for people with disabilities to be more of a part of developing AT, I finally had my wish granted!

 A few weeks ago, I was selected to participate in an event where my ideas would actually be heard and created by AT inventors themselves.

Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) are the ones responsible for bringing this concept into fruition. With the help of other businesses and organizations, they hold 72 hour “Makeathons” where people with disabilities (a.k.a. “need-knowers”) are teamed up with professional “makers” (a.k.a. engineers, builders, architects, designers, and so much more) and the creating process begins.

TOM is actually based in Israel, so what made this event so exciting was that it was the first Makeathon held in the United States.

At the end of this planning and designing weekend in San Fransisco, we were asked to present to a group of judges, which was followed by a brief awards ceremony presented by the sponsors.

The entire weekend completely overwhelmed me… but in a great way!

The amount of cleverness and intelligence in the room was truly immeasurable. For example, my team created “The Grabber”. It’s a mouth stick with a grabbing mechanism at the end that I control using my bite.

Kim stting at her desk with the mouth grabber on a stand to her sides. She is wearing her headset Kim at her desk using the mouth grabber to write with a penI witnessed another team transform a manual push chair into an electric power chair that is controlled by using an app on a smart phone.

I also watched while a foldable transfer bar was attached to a woman’s wheelchair, so that she would be able to transfer from her chair independently.

Furthermore, after the Makeathon, every project is set up so that further advancements can be made by the team. TOM does a fantastic job at encouraging continued open communication with the teams after the event.

I saw a lot of new things and met lots of amazing people. I am genuinely touched that I was selected to participate in an experience that I’ll never forget.  I hope that my Grabber will  one day help the lives of many individuals.

Do you have ideas for AT inventions?  Write about them in the comment section below!  Also, check out TOM’s website by clicking here.

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