Towards a Social Justice Aligned Makerspace: Co-designing Custom Assistive Technology within a University Ecosystem





Citation of Original Publication

Higgins, Erin, Zaria Oliver, and Foad Hamidi. “Towards a Social Justice Aligned Makerspace: Co-Designing Custom Assistive Technology within a University Ecosystem.” In Proceedings of the 25th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility, 1–13. ASSETS ’23. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, 2023.


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Digital fabrication methods offer exciting opportunities for producing customized assistive technology (AT). However, utilizing these tools currently requires a high level of technical expertise as well as time and money investments. Furthermore, facilitating collaboration between end users and makers needs effective and inclusive approaches with shared language and support for asynchronous, dispersed communication of design requirements. While these Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approaches are shown to support end-user agency and furthering technology democratization, research has to yet explore how they can further align with social justice values and practices. We explored these possibilities by facilitating DIY-AT design with students with disabilities within a university makerspace. By explicitly encouraging participants to consider social justice issues important to them as they engaged in DIY-AT design, we studied the considerations and supports needed for facilitating flexible co-design activities and broader conversations about accessibility barriers at the university. Adopting a transdisciplinary approach, we offer lessons learned about the potential of co-designing DIY-ATs as a way to investigate questions of social justice, inclusion, and access in academic contexts.