Access Makeathon


I took part in the 2017 Access Makeathon put on by the Neil Squire Society to develop an open source assistive technology.

Our team leader Jarrod has multiple sclerosis and difficulty speaking. He is legally blind and has limited motion below the neck, so he typically has to rely on a friend or caregiver to read letters out loud and raise his eyebrows to make selection. Despite only being able to communicate at 2-3 words per minute, Jarrod has managed to write a biography over the past 10 years using this method.

Our team’s project was to develop a solution to help Jarrod communicate independently.

As part of their final year capstone project, a group of electrical engineering students at UBC had been working with Jarrod for several months to address the same challenge using a gaze tracking sensor. After discussing the capstone team’s challenge with the gaze sensor, our team decided to investigate other input options, and develop sensors that would work in a stand-alone system as well as integrate with the capstone project software.

Over the course of the weekend, our team developed a simple augementative and assistive communication device. Our system is based around an Arduino Uno with a text-to-speech shield. The software provides an audio-based keyboard to the user, and captures input using a simple blink detection sensor and/or throat microphone.

My Tasks

  • Ideation and brainstorming
  • Design and 3D printing for device to mount blink sensor to glasses
  • Experimentation with 6 degree of freedom motion sensor via Arduino
  • Assist with development and delivery of presentation