Today we wanted to highlight our Edmonton Chapter, which joined Makers Making Change in 2021.

The chapter is led by Janelle Singh, a biomedical engineering technologist at the I CAN Centre for Assistive Technology at Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

Edmonton Chapter leader Janelle Singh

She works with patients of all ages with various neuromuscular conditions, cognitive impairments, lost limbs, spinal cord injuries, and a variety of disabilities. Her main focus is providing patients with Speech Generating Communication Devices (SGCD), Environmental Control Units (ECU), Powered Mobility Devices, and Virtual Rehabilitation (VR).

While some devices are covered, many assistive technologies are not.

“These systems cost hundreds to thousands of dollars,” she explains. “They also break, wear out, and need to be replaced, all at the expense of the patient or family.”

She first learned about Makers Making Change in 2018.

“I saw so much value in the work they are doing to provide affordable AT to those that need it. Initially I knew I could contribute skills and resources to this initiative and became a volunteer maker. I spoke to Disability Professionals, Allied Health Professionals, and people living with disabilities about MMC. They were all excited and enthusiastic about the materials and products offered just as much as I was,” she explains.

“I started to make MMC AT resources and provide them to people seeing firsthand the benefit it had on my local community.”

In 2021, she became a chapter leader, starting the Edmonton Chapter.

“I’ve since met so many individuals that want to give back to their community and have learned so much about DIY AT through MMC. Our Edmonton Chapter might have emerged during unprecedented times when meetings and social gatherings were limited but we are making strides in providing low cost AT devices to many people here in Edmonton,” Janelle says.

“Our Edmonton chapter has printed and built numerous switches, keyguards, and assistive aids. We’ve adapted toys and worked in adapted gaming.”

The chapter has fostered a strong community of makers in Edmonton.

“Currently, one of our chapter members who lives with ALS has designed and uses an assistive head mouse and is currently working on providing a how to, materials list, and STLs for their head mouse which will be posted online for others to utilize. This DIY head mouse will cost about $50 to make,” she explains.

“It is stories and people like this I see every day that inspire me to continue the work that I do and I want to bring these stories to everyone designing, building, and using AT. We all have the right to access the things we love to do and to express ourselves in the way we wish to. It may look different for some but access is everything to all of us.

“I strongly believe cost should never be a barrier to anyone who needs AT. Our Edmonton MMC chapter hopes to raise awareness of AT needs and enhance the quality of life for people living with disabilities every day.”