2019 Assistive Technology Interns

ADA’s Internship Program positions participants (high school through graduate-level students from programs including ITP, occupational therapy, industrial design, and engineering) to work directly with children as well as their teams of clinicians, educators, family members, and friends, to identify, design, and build person-specific adaptations and assistive technology.

Over 8-12 weeks interns work with clinical staff in their partner schools, hospitals, senior care facilities, and other community-based organizations to fabricate items not currently available on the market that promote play, literacy, and independence for clients with disabilities.

Enjoy these intern highlights and explore how to make your own:

Ability Beat Box

Tilt Stander

Tilt Chair

The Interns

"As I prepare to move forward with my career, I have learned so much and have been able to improve my skills as a designer and fabricator in ways I couldn’t have expected."

- Darien Hester

Project Highlight: GoBabyGo Project

Ride-on cars for toddlers are fun, easier to operate, and safer than bicycles and scooters. If Joey can't press the little gas pedal, or can't sit upright on the backless driver seat when the car is moving, though, this fun experience is out of his reach. Solution: "Hack" the car's electronics so whatever movement he can do--tap a finger, press down with a chin, puff air into a straw--makes the car go, AND add a seat back, arm supports, headrest -- whatever it takes to stabilize him so he can drive the car on his own.

"During this internship, I learned everything around us has the potential to be designed in order to meet a specific user's needs." - Tova Kleiner

Project Highlight: Light Bar Mechanism

Crowded city streets and sidewalks are hazardous for a small person in a small wheelchair--when you're surrounded by taller pedestrians, people don't SEE you!For Tamara, whose bones are extremely brittle, it's doubly dangerous: a swinging purse can fracture a collarbone.Solution:Increase visibility of chair and rider with very bright lights on a pole visible above the heads of the crowd.

"I believe Adaptive Design Association is a microcosm of what can exist in the world." - Shira Mechanic

Project Highlight: Ability Beat Box

A simple concept: build hand function by practicing different types of grip, and make it appealing by adding a musical reward. Result: Improved strength and dexterity.Bonus result:Children thought to have low cognitive ability learned which gripper led to their favorite music and repeatedly activated it until the tune was finished. When the tunes were switched around, the children investigated, learned the new association, and played their tune using the new grip.

"ADA is a work of heart. We believe every individual has the right to reach his/her full potential. We provide a vehicle, through our adaptations, to help achieve his/her goals"

- Celina Zapiti

Project Highlight: Tilt chair

Sitting up seems such a simple thing! It actually involves complex interactions among muscles, tendons, nerves, the inner ear, vision, and more.  If any of those isn't working as advertised, sitting can be a challenge. One solution: An adjustable chair that, to start, tilts far back -- partly lying down.  Give the body and nervous system time to get used to it, then gradually increase the angle.

"Going forward, I hope these experiences will help me to recognize hidden structures of exclusion and create little opportunities of power for others." - Taichi Aritomo

Project Highlight: Stander and Tray

Equipment to help you stand is often used just until you can stand without it.  With some conditions, though, the need for standing support is ongoing.  Such a stander must provide sturdy support on all sides while ensuring your comfort, but it's also a space where you may spend a lot of time.  So what will you do while you're standing?  With its tray, you can read, or play checkers in this stander.  With the tray removed, you can stand at the dining room table or computer desk.

"As I progress more into my engineering curriculum, I am confident that the fabrication skills I learned in the workshop will be incredibly valuable." -Amber Zedeck

Project Highlight: Ramp

When you need physical therapy, you usually need it more than the limited number of brief sessions paid for by your insurance, so you get exercises to do at home, too. Therapy rooms are full of equipment you don't have at home, though.To practice walking up slopes, a vital part of recovering mobility, you need a ramp strong enough to be safe, long enough to require sustained effort, with adjustable degree of slope, that doesn't take up a whole room when you're not using it. Not a simple combination!

"ADA's never-say-no policy for building equipment is the most meaningful way they promote their values of inclusivity and doing good for others." - Karen Passburg

They say you have to learn to walk before you can run. You also have to stand before you can walk. Standing takes muscle strength, balance, and coordination by the nervous system. To build any or all of those three abilities, a gradual approach is often employed.

Explore how to make your own Tilt Stander.