Welcome to the Hack Ability blog. This blog is meant to encourage people to share the details of their accessibility hacks. Anything you’ve made or invented, that might help other people with disabilities or physical limitations, can be, and we think should be, shared with the world for free.

Let’s spread information about gadgets, hacks, do it yourself projects, hardware, software, medical and mobility equipment, ways to carry things when you use crutches, mods to wheelchairs, or whatever.

You built a cool thing. Now share it – with everyone. Someone else might use it, or build it for a friend or relative.


Does this funny way I thought of to use a spatula “count” as a hack?
Hell yeah! We want a range of hacks from “handy way to use a piece of string” to “blueprints and CAD files for jetpack”.

Why should I give away my ideas for free?
Because your invention will reach more people. It will help empower people with disabilities as part of the independent living movement. It might help free someone from life in an institution, or from poverty and dependence on others to provide them with overpriced mobility equipment that no one will fix. Ideally, your plans and how-tos will be translated into many languages, and will spread to many different countries and populations. The DIY hack ability approach might turn out to be good for people with disabilities in the developing world.

Hey! You just published my secret blueprints! DMCA takedown!
If anyone in our blog’s community of writers or commenters puts up plans which you think have violated your copyright, please email me, Liz Henry, at liz@bookmaniac.org I will try as best as possible for a polite and fast reply & resolution to the problem.

How can I help the project?
Write up some ideas, read existing articles and help to improve them with good editing or more illustrations, write about Hack Ability and link to it, email someone whose ideas you like and offer to help. Maybe ask a person with disabilities or limitations, maybe an older relative, what they find difficult to do, and invent something — then post your hack. If you’re an expert in a particular area of DIY dis/ability hacking, let us know! And if you just want to donate money towards open source design, you could give it to the Shared Design Initiative, which looks pretty nifty. If you’re part of an organization that involves accessibility, independent living, or people with disabilities, you could host an event or a contest for DIY Access Hacks.

If you’re interested in being part of a Hack Ability group at Maker Faire in 2010, please contact Liz at liz@bookmaniac.org

Where can I publish my DIY idea?
You can email them to us, or post them in comments on this blog or your own blog. If you email me your project, I’d love it if you could include your name (or an online name that you’d like us to use to credit you), contact information and / or a place of your own on the web. I’d also love it if you could take a photo or two of yourself and your hack! Drawings or designs are also welcome. Contact email is liz@bookmaniac.org.

Or, you could post your hacks on:

How can I license my invention to be open source?
Fabulous question! No one is sure. For now, here is a link to Wikipedia’s Open source hardware page and to the Open Source Initiative. A lot of projects just publish all their plans online and hope for the best. Open source licensing is really complicated, with a lot of grey areas. If you make your invention design public, you could try just declaring your intent along with the plans — but that is no guarantee people will respect your wishes. Your design might be taken and commercialized and improved upon and made proprietary. Check out what people are saying about these issues recently on the Instructables forums. Or you might look at how Open Prosthetics does it. For instructions and tips and how-tos, you might try some variant of the Creative Commons license.

How can I manufacture my invention so anyone can use it?
We’re not experts on this, but 3D printing services such as Ponoko and Shapeways have quite a lot of potential for creating physical objects to your specifications. Shapeways recently added stainless steel to its materials, and Ponoko has a strong community based around open-sourcing designs and ideas.

Who we are

Liz Henry – San Francisco, United States (BlogHer

Ricky Buchanan – Melbourne, Australia (No Pity City tshirts and Not Done Living

Everyone on the Hack Ability mailing list! That means it could be you, too.