An assistive tech which allows quadriplegics to use touchscreen mobile devices using a mouth-operated joystick with sip and puff controls

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Touchscreen devices have become a staple piece of technology in this day and age. Most people cannot get through the day without using their smartphone. It keeps us connected. It keeps us organized. It is an integral part of our social lives. For people in wheelchairs whom experience difficulties with fine upper body motor control, the usage of mobile devices can be very challenging. Statistics show there are over 1 million people in the United States and Canada that have very limited or no use of their hands, making touchscreen devices very difficult or impossible to use.

The "LipSync" is an assistive technology device which is being developed to allow quadriplegics and other people with limited hand use the ability to use touchscreen mobile devices by manipulation of a mouth-operated joystick with integrated sip and puff controls. We are releasing all of our work open-source, to make the Lipsync a solution that can be made at the community level for less than $300.


In 2016, upwards of 1.6 billion people in the world are using smartphones. Smartphones are becoming a staple piece of technology for many citizens in North America and around the World. Smartphones and touchscreen devices enable users to navigate around their city better, to communicate with others more freely, and to operate applications which can promote happy and productive lives. Currently, there exist a limited number of practical devices for quadriplegics to use touchscreen devices - this is where we step in.

The LipSync is an electronic device which allows quadriplegics the ability to use compatible touchscreen and computer devices without the use of their hands. The user is able to manipulate a cursor on their device screen using a mouth-operated joystick with integrated sip and puff controls to simulate the actions of "tap" and hitting the back button, respectively. With longer sips and longer puffs, additional secondary features are enabled including a "tap and drag", "long tap and drag" and the possibility of more specialized functions as per the user's needs.

The LipSync is design specifically for portable devices, it does not require AC power, but it will work with any device including desktop and laptop computers that support mice through a universal serial bus (USB) or the Bluetooth connection.

The LipSync is an open-source hardware project where all of our 3D printer files, component lists and microcontroller code are made public. In the spirit of accessibility, our housing can be 3D printed, the electronic components are readily available and the assembly is as straightforward as possible.

The LipSync was envisioned as a holistic solution that takes in to consideration not only the interface but how the system is to be mounted on the user’s wheelchair. The actual electronics of the device is on part of the implementation. There are no standardized methods to which wheelchairs are designed. Wheelchair manufacturers can use round or square tubing. They often also use tubing which is not compatible with other manufacturers so that customers must buy accessories from them. As a result, there is not a standard location or clamping mechanism to mount assistive technology on the chair.

Wheelchairs are also customized to the user, including the height, width and seating position of the user. The seating on the wheelchairs are customized to minimize the incidents of pressure sores. As a result, the mounting system for assistive technology such as the LipSync also has to be customized. In addition to the instructions to assemble a LipSync, we have included instructions on how to mount a LipSync. A combination of off-theshelf and custom 3D printed components are provided in order to help makers create a fully integrated and customized solution for the user.

Now the maker community and disability community can meet, collaborate and work together constructing a LipSync over a period not much longer than a weekend. We hope these new relationships will continue spurring innovation within the maker community.

There are 3 main aspects we will be addressing in our project:

  1. Developing an easy to build, but robust electronics assembly that novice to experienced makers can build;
  2. Developing a device housing which can be 3D printed by makers either at home or at dedicated facilities;
  3. Creating mounting options for a variety of wheelchairs with 3D printed parts and/or commercially available components.


Smartphones, by their very nature, are intended to be used while on the go. Traditional assistive technology designs for the desktop and laptop computer are not portable in nature, so they cannot be easily applied to smartphones. While single and dual input systems exist for smartphones, they are slow and frustrating to use for users with more capabilities of movement. Single and dual input switches are appropriate for users that can only make one or two movements consistently. The LipSync is...

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  • Upcoming Events in the US

    Chad09/20/2018 at 16:47 0 comments

    Over the next couple weeks, we'll be hosting and attending a range of buildathons, maker faires, and workshops in the United States. Each of them offers an opportunity to have fun and learn new things while working together on solutions to benefit people with disabilities.

    Students solderingStudent makers working on LipSyncs at a prior buildathon

    We hope you’ll join us at an event or two if you’re in the area. Click on each event link to learn more and register:

    We look forward to seeing you!

  • AT Makers' Fair

    Chad09/12/2018 at 22:03 0 comments

    On September 29th, Makers Making Change will be in Concord, NH for the AT Makers’ Fair. This AT-dedicated fair brings together makers of all abilities to share ideas, develop new skills, and enhance innovations for people with disabilities.

    The fair will feature talks by AT maker movement leaders, hands-on workshops, an AT Invention contest, a Make AT Café makerspace, and more.

    Makers working on toy adaptations

    The Make AT Café is a particularly cool space. Participants can make and take home a variety of AT devices using various plastics, wire, specialty tapes, and basic hand tools. Many of the devices address specific challenges; these include low vision devices, holding and gripping devices, toy adaptations, communication access devices, and more.

    In addition, Chad Leaman, Director of Innovation, will be facilitating a workshop called Connecting to Makers and Quality Open AT Projects. The workshop will explore a range of freely available open-source assistive devices and resources, as well as community groups that can help in designing and making assistive devices.

    Register now for the AT Makers’ Fair. The deadline is September 14th. We look forward to seeing you there!

  • We're Hiring a Regional Coordinator in Calgary

    Chad09/04/2018 at 17:46 0 comments

    Are you actively involved in the maker community in Calgary?

    Are you an electronics and 3D printing whiz?

    We are looking for a Regional Coordinator who will work to integrate Makers Making Change within the community. You’ll love this role if you are a maker who is actively involved in maker culture – someone who is passionate about creating in all aspects of life. You'll interact and work with diverse groups of people, including people with disabilities, organizations, and disability professionals.

    Makers working on LipSync parts

    Makers at a prior LipSync Buildathon, soldering away

    As a Regional Coordinator, you'll help integrate our work into makerspaces and hackspaces, whether at libraries, universities, for-profit or community-run spaces, or schools. In addition, you'll have the opportunity to develop curriculum for middle and high school students, utilizing “design thinking” methodologies.

    Read more about the opening. We look forward to connecting with you!

  • Maker Faire New York

    Chad08/23/2018 at 20:39 0 comments

    Exactly a month from now, we will be at World Maker Faire New York. You can meet us at our booth throughout the weekend of September 22–23. Learn more and get your Maker Faire tickets here:

    Maker Faire New York -- See us there!

    At Maker Faire, I will also be on a panel centred on making assistive technologies for people with disabilities. I'll be joining these brilliant makers:

    • Jon Schull of e-NABLE, a network of volunteers creating free open-source 3D printed prosthetics for children and underserved populations
    • Holly Cohen of DIYAbility, which empowers people to not only to make access solutions for people with disabilities, but to also help people with disabilities be makers
    • Liz Arum of Ultimaker, who is 3D printing resources for blind students

    We’re interested in organizing a small LipSync Buildathon or two in the week after Maker Faire in the New York area and on the East Coast. If you’d like to be involved, please email me at

    We look forward to seeing you there!

  • Testing, Testing...

    Chad08/09/2018 at 22:17 0 comments

    We're having a busy and fun time doing a lot of backend work here at Makers Making Change. One of our projects: testing and fixing a whole bunch of LipSyncs to make sure they are functioning brilliantly before being sent to people who need them.

    Completed LipSyncs in a box

    We are glad to have Fawzan’s help in testing these LipSyncs. As you may remember, Fawzan is a high school student who, along with his student group, 3D-printed assistive devices from our library for people with disabilities. Read more about Fawzan’s work.

    You won't hear from us as often in the next few weeks while we work on these projects. In the meantime, you can always give us a shout or get involved on our website. Have a bright rest-of-the-summer!

  • Sign Up On Our Website

    Chad08/02/2018 at 20:30 0 comments

      Have you browsed the new Makers Making Change website? We’ve started to get a lot of signups and our Projects library is expanding!

      Here’s how you can sign up and get involved.

      1. Go to
      2. Enter your information and click Sign Up.
      3. Check your email to activate your registration.
      4. Select your role(s). Choose from maker, person with a disability, disability professional, teacher, and/or other.
      5. Upload a profile photo and indicate your skills, if applicable. This may include soldering, electronics, 3D printing, etc.

      The new Makers Making Change website homepage

      The Makers Making Change website homepage

      That’s it! Now click on Connect in the sidebar to search for makers, project requests, or events in your area. Explore the open-source Projects library and make a device for a person with a disability. Or upload your own project or idea.

      If you have a disability and feel a certain project will improve your life, you can request a build. We’ll connect you with a maker in your community who can build the device for you.

      Let's collaborate!

  • What AT Can Help Students with Disabilities?

    Chad07/19/2018 at 17:45 0 comments

    We are currently working on expanding our open-source assistive technology library by adding devices that can help youth. We have some questions for teachers to help us get started.

    A hand using a key turner to open a door

    The key turner, a popular low-tech AT device from our library

    What disabilities do your students have? Are there any assistive devices you can think of that would be a valuable addition to your classroom? If your students are already working with some assistive technology, click a photo of the device and send it to us!

    You can reach out by contacting Zee Kesler, Makers Making Change Project Manager, at Thank you for your help!

  • We Fixed 40 LipSyncs

    Chad07/16/2018 at 22:26 0 comments

    On Thursday, July 5th, Makers Making Change was at Vancouver Hack Space to repair a few LipSyncs. In just a few hours, around 12 volunteers helped us troubleshoot and fix 40 LipSyncs. We can now send these completed LipSyncs to people with disabilities who need them. Thank you to everyone who came out to help! Staff and volunteers at a table Above: Makers Making Change staff and volunteer makers working on LipSync parts Shaemus, our Research and Development student, soldering Above: Our Research and Development student, Shaemus, soldering Completed LipSyncs after the event Above: A whole bunch of completed multi-coloured LipSyncs

  • Dementia-Friendly Music Player

    Chad07/09/2018 at 21:16 0 comments

    At Makers Making Change, we believe in collaborating to make even more effective assistive solutions. On that note, we want to introduce two makers: Ross Porter, a Seattle-based maker who created the dementia-friendly music player, and Trey Bagley, who made the 3D-printed design.

    The laser-cut design of the music player

    The laser-cut design of the music player

    This music player was Ross’s first maker project. He set out to create something that would bring joy to his father, who had dementia. The project is completely open-source, with the initial model consisting of a laser-cut case.

    “My dad could no longer operate a CD player or iPod,” says Ross on his website, “But he could use the music player that I designed and made for him, because it operates like a familiar two-knob radio. I was inspired to make this by the documentary Alive Inside which shows the profound joy felt by some people with dementia when listening to their favorite music.”

    The 3D-Printed Design

    The stained 3D-printed cathedral-style design

    The stained 3D-printed cathedral-style design

    Ross was now looking for a 3D-printed version of the case, so that the project would be more accessible to potential makers. We connected him to maker Trey Bagley, who worked with Ross to create an elegant cathedral-style shell. The filament is made of 40% sawdust and can be stained to make it appear closer to wood. The design stays just as simple to use.

    “If you imagine someone with dementia, they gradually forget the present, but their old memories are strong,” explains Ross. “Particularly, memories formed before the age of 21. Thus, Trey went about creating something that someone, even if their memory does not expand past the 1950s, would still recognize – something that they have experienced as a child.”

    “I thought it was a very interesting design challenge,” says Trey. “We did a lot of research, pulled up some specific examples, mostly from people on EBay selling antiques and vintage collectibles. The wood filament and the staining brought out a ton of detail. The filament can replicate the wood grain on a flat surface.”

    An Easy and Fun Project

    Components required to build a music box

    These are all the parts you need. Get making!

    At the Seattle Mini Maker Faire in September 2017, Ross provided some participants the required materials to build a device then and there. “I did get seven people to sign up and make the device – and all seven succeeded in making it. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes on average.”

    Do you know anyone in your life or in your community who could benefit from this music player? You can easily order the parts online and get either a laser-cut or 3D-printed shell. As Ross says, a 13-year-old can build it!

    You can find the instructions for both models or request the project on our website. If you have questions or suggestions about the music player, contact Ross at If you have ideas about the existing 3D-printed shell or find any errors, contact Trey at

  • Fix a LipSync

    Chad06/28/2018 at 17:54 0 comments

    Next week, we’ll meet our old friends at Vancouver Hack Space (VHS) to repair and complete a bunch of LipSyncs. Not every device is finished at our buildathons, and we periodically organize fix-it nights so community members can help us complete them.

    By volunteering to troubleshoot a LipSync, you help a person with a disability (who may be quadriplegic or have limited use of their hands) gain access to a touchscreen device. Plus: around 6pm, we'll get pizza for our volunteers.

    Luke working on a LipSync

    Luke, a director at VHS, during a Fix a LipSync event in December 2017. We had fixed 67 LipSyncs at that time!

    RSVP on Eventbrite. Come any time, for as long as you are able.

    When: Thursday, July 5th, 1pm - 8pm
    Where: Vancouver Hack Space, #104-1715 Cook St Vancouver, BC V5Y 3J6

    PS: Do you have a chronic condition/disability or care for someone who does? The UBC Health Mentors Program is looking for Health Mentors to share their medical expertise with healthcare students. Mentors meet students twice a semester over a 16-month term, and share their expertise on living with a chronic condition.

    Applications are open till August 13th, 2018. Learn more about being a Health Mentor on the UBC website.

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Mark Brady Ingle wrote 07/02/2017 at 22:52 point

is anyone still working on this project?  I need some help and ordering information on the mouth piece parts

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Chad wrote 07/08/2017 at 16:14 point

hey Mark glad we caight up on email..sorry not logging into hackaday as often as I should. 

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Mark Brady Ingle wrote 06/27/2017 at 02:50 point

I am testing on Mac and need the instructions for the RED/Green flash sequence.  I have a bluetooth connection established but I am not able to go any further.  Help would be appreci

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Trent Robertson wrote 05/30/2017 at 16:00 point

Thank you for sharing this project. One of my best friends has ALS and would benefit from this. I have already set up voice recognition features in her apartment to allow her to control lights, air conditioning, and the TV, but she still needs someone to hold and control a tablet for her if she wants to surf the internet. I hope to find the time to build this soon.

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Chad wrote 07/08/2017 at 16:13 point

hey Trent let us know if we can send you some parts / the main boards!

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Mark Brady Ingle wrote 05/09/2017 at 20:53 point

Hello team!  Are the current instructions online the most current?  I have enough parts to get started so I wanted to make sure. 

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Chad wrote 05/11/2017 at 20:20 point

Hi Mark, we have added the most recent as of now.  Let us know if you got questions with the build and in particular ping @Ivan.Gee if you need in particular details

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eroy wrote 01/02/2017 at 23:34 point

Thank you for this project! I am endlessly disappointed in the cost of assistive technology. To make something like this open source is a gesture rarely seen. 

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Charles G wrote 02/26/2017 at 06:49 point

Thank you for the kind words eroy! Stay tuned in the next couple weeks as we launch a new and improved version of the LipSync at an even lower price point!

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Manuel Z wrote 10/10/2016 at 19:18 point

this is an amazing project! congratulations!!!! 

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Charles G wrote 10/10/2016 at 23:14 point

Thanks, Manuel!

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Sadiq Mohamed wrote 09/22/2016 at 12:02 point

A very worthwhile project. I had a friend with MS who would have benefited from this. Unfortunately he died some years ago. I wish you the best of luck with your testing and look forward to the results.

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Ivan wrote 09/22/2016 at 17:55 point

My condolences about your friend @Sadiq Mohamed . I am glad you believe in our project, we are working our tails off over here so we can start getting makers and users together to start building these and help increase people's quality on life. Just as a side note, our plans are to continue compiling and refining open-source assistive technologies, if you have any ideas I would love to hear them.

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