Design for Independence

The winning team at TOM: NYC2017 enjoy a moment of recognition with Victor Calise, NYC Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, seated center. ICS Rehab Engineer Bob Paradiso is standing just behind Commissioner Calise and ICS member Dwight McKayne is seated next to him.

Have a disability? What can’t you do in your home that you wish you could do with the push of a button, voice command, or eye movement? Very likely, there’s a hack for that; come find out at a free, do-it-yourself, assistive technology workshop!

For years we’ve been writing about the tension between advances in assistive technologies that allow people with disabilities to be more independent and the exorbitant cost of many of these technologies – which insurance generally does not pay for. We’ve also discussed the role of people with disabilities in designing new adaptive technologies for their own use, and how emerging technologies affect how people think about disability.

During the time we’ve been following these issues there’s been a rapid revolution in the field, brought about by a confluence of hackers, makers, engineers, designers and people with disabilities – some of whom are themselves hackers, makers, designers or engineers. Together, these folks have overcome some of the cost barriers to adaptive technologies with a determined do-it-yourself ethos.

Last year we introduced you to ICS Rehab Engineer Bob Paradiso, who creates inexpensive, custom adaptive equipment for our members. Now, we’re taking it to a new level, with a series of free do-it-yourself workshops for people with disabilities, their family members and friends.


The first ICS do-it-yourself technology workshops are next Tuesday, June 6, from 2 to 4 pm, at ICS Brooklyn, and Friday, June 16, 2 to 4 pm, at ICS Bronx. These workshops are open to anyone – you do not need to be an ICS member to attend. Simply RSVP to Chris Pierson by email – – or phone: 646.653.6279. Information about each location is here.

TOM – Tikkun Olam MakersA Winning Team

Many great examples of engineer-user-hacker-designer collaboration took place this spring at TOM: NYC2017.  TOM – Tikkun Olam Makers – is a global movement connecting makers, designers, developers, engineers and people with disabilities to create affordable assistive technologies to meet every day needs – like operating a window shade, a phone, a door, or a home appliance. More than 180 creative folks gathered at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the three-day TOM challenge in April.

Bob Paradiso and ICS member Dwight McKayne, who has quadriplegia, were part of a TOM team – shown in the photo above – that was challenged to create a one-button remote to replace a standard remote. Dwight – who is a maker himself and who has limited use of his hands – found that on a standard remote the multiple buttons were too close together, making it difficult to use without pressing more than one button.

The team Bob and Dwight were part of won TOM’s “Most Independent” award! Other teams won recognition in the areas of “Most Feasible,” “Greatest Reach,” “Most Innovative,” and “Most Adaptive.”

To learn more about how ICS is using affordable assistive technologies to help our members gain more independence, listen to the Independence Radio interview with Bob. Then come to the Brooklyn or Bronx workshop and bring your friends!

Need a little inspiration? Check out more photos from TOM: NYC2017 here.

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