The Use of Working Prototypes for Participatory Design with People with Disabilities

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9758)


The inclusion of people with disabilities and their circle of stakeholders in the design and deployment of digital assistive technology is increasingly being recognized as important. The Do-It-Yourself Assistive Technology (DIY-AT) approach investigates methodologies and tools to support accessible making practices. In prior work, we successfully used a DIY-AT approach to develop TalkBox, an open-source direct-selection communication board for those with little or no functional verbal communication. In this paper, we describe a follow-up project in which we use TalkBox as a prototyping platform to facilitate co-design and co-fabrication of DIY-AT. We present results from (1) a workshop in which users with disabilities and their parents/caregivers fabricated their own TalkBoxes, and (2) a collaborative co-design session with a non-verbal child and his mother wherein the potential for TalkBox variants led to novel design decisions. We illustrate the outcome of our process by describing the multi-vocabulary variant called Hot Swappable TalkBox, in which RFID technology is used to afford easy switching among different vocabulary sets.


Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Assistive technology Participatory design Open-source hardware Communication boards SGDs 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the valuable contributions of our colleague, Ray Feraday, the many student members of the “Devices 4 Disabilities” student club at York University, and Glenn Barnes, Ontario Coordinator for the Tetra Society of North America. The TalkBox units produced in this project were funded by the Tetra Society of North America and the project was funded, in part, by an internal grant provided by York University.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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