Accessing Potential Through Assistive Technology
Gifting Guide Day 25: Switch Adapted Toys

Playing is an essential part of child growth and development. Learning to activate a toy teaches a child cause/effect and choice making…two essential skills for communication. For children with disabilities who cannot activate the buttons and controls on toys through typical means, we recommend a switch adapted toy. When a toy is switch adapted that means that the internal switches are modified with an external connection to an ability button. Ability buttons can come in a variety of sizes, colors, and means of activation to suit the child’s needs. The buttons can be positioned such that the child can activate it with a hand, foot, elbow, head, etc….whatever the child can use to best target!

Check out the resources below to learn more about switch adapted toys!

variety of switch adapted toys

There are several assistive technology vendors that sell toys that are already modified with a switch jack for an ability button. Vendors like Enabling Devices. Adaptive Tech Solutions, or Ablenet Inc are reliable sources for toys that have already been modified.

Switch adapted toys can be costly, and families with disabled children are already overwhelmed with expenses. Guardians may only be able to purchase one or two switch adapted toys for the child which is why it makes a great gift!

a variety of ability buttons from Ablenet

Don’t forget the ability buttons! In order to utilize a switch adapted toy you also need the ability buttons (external switches). These can also be costly depending on the type but the good news is they are interchangeable with the toy. Depending on the child they may need 2 to 4 switches to start with. Consult with local AT specialists like a speech language pathologist, occupational or physical therapist, or a rehab engineer to determine the right type of button for the child. Vendors like Enabling Devices or Ablenet Inc are reliable sources for ability buttons though there are many options online.

Teddy bear being switch modified

Unfortunately since the vendors who sell pre modified toys are incurring the cost of the toy, the cost of supplies, and charging for the labor and redistribution…the cost of a toy that is modified can be 3-4 times the cost of the original toy.

Thankfully, with less than $10 and some basic electrical and soldering skills you can learn to modify your own toys and save a lot of cash!

Do your research though! Make sure you understand what types of toys can be modified easily and how to complete the process before jumping in. There is no shortage of instruction guides online and soon we’ll have more posted here on! Until then take a look at AT Makers website as well as an older Adapting Toys blog post from that provides step by step instructions on switch adapting a toy.

Gifting Guide Day 23: Accessibility in Video Games

For many years the answer to accessibility in the video game world revolved around providing controller access for players with varying abilities. This often meant several days 3D printing, soldering, fiddling with interfaces, and general frustration. The industry turned upside down with Microsoft’s introduction of the Adaptive Controller. Gamers could finally interact with just about any game in a plug-and-play manner. If you had buttons and/or a joystick positioned in a comfortable position, the Adaptive controller could accept the input and allow you to be transported into the endless worlds of gaming…

…As long as you could actually play the game. While many individuals could now manipulate controls, game developers were still treating accessibility features on the software side as an afterthought. Hopefully gamers wouldn’t need subtitles in large, easy to read font to catch important lore information. In a similar vein, why would they need to adjust the UI settings? It’s not like you would ever be playing on something other than a large TV or monitor or at a distance farther than a few feet away. Gamers are also known for their love of mountain dew resulting in quick reaction times and the ability to play for hours at a time. No need for aim assist or reasonably spaced save points. Thankfully this mindset is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

In the past year alone, we have gotten games with the ability to not only have subtitles but fully customize their font, color, background opacity, and more. Similar features exist to customize menu buttons. Need help visualizing who the bad guys are? One developer introduced a filter that would highlight them with a high-contrast color of your choice, the same for the good guys and scenery. Remember when you had to choose between easy, normal, and hard? Some developers now let you customize specific elements down to how fast animations play, characters move, damage is dealt, and a variety of other options. Motion control required for solving puzzles or performing tricky actions? Many games now allow you to turn the feature off or make it button controlled. Speaking of which, custom button/keyboard mapping has entered a new galaxy. Gone are the days of having to twist your fingers or use your third hand to be able to pull off various moves. Want to have one input act as a sequence of presses, there’s a game that will allow it. Don’t want to fiddle between holding, tapping, and pressing a button which would result in different results, you can probably reconfigure it.

While not all games and developers can accommodate all the mentioned features, or the hundreds not covered in this post, it is quickly becoming the case where accessibility is the standard. Game designers are producing games built around accessibility features rather than tacking them on at the end. The video game world is embracing that gamers come in all forms and living up to Microsoft’s mantra, Gaming for Everyone. Post inspired by Game Maker’s Toolkit, please watch their video on the subject.

Find out more:

Gifting Guide Day 22: Adapted Sailing Products

It wouldn’t be a gift-giving season without a request for sailing gear or boat parts. There is no such thing as a day wasted on the water, and there is nothing like sailing in a stiff breeze to clear one’s mind and calm one’s soul.

Man sailing a sip and puff controlled sailboat with crew.

Any boat can be adapted, sailed, and raced by people with various disabilities. I remember watching Nick Scandone win the gold medal for the USA with his teammate Maureen McKinnon-Tucker sailing a SCUD-18 in the 2008 Paralympic Games. Nick, who had ALS, was sailing as a Classification 1, the most severe mobility limitation. He drove the boat, and had the highest tech setup I’ve ever seen on an adapted sailboat. Incidentally, Nick is also the only Paralympic sailor to win the US Sailing’s Yachtsman of the Year.

Visit for interviews with adapted sailors.

Type 1 Personal Floatation Device with neck support designed to turn a person face up in the water.

Safety First

One of the essential pieces of sailing gear is an excellent Personal Floatation Device (PFD) or life jacket. Type 1 PFDs provide the most floatation, and most will turn an unconscious person face-up out of the water. A Type 1 PFD is what we would recommend for someone with limited motor function, poor coordination, or for sailing in extreme conditions. Many mainstream retailers sell this type of device, such as West Marine:–type-i-comfort-deluxe-life-jacket–15911373?recordNum=3 . There are also some specialty companies, such as Lifejackets Adapted (, that sell PFDs for people with specific needs.

Wetsuit that has been adapted for a person with a left left amputation.

What to Wear

Some sailors like to wear wetsuits depending on where and what type of boat they sail. Wetsuits help insulate and retain heat when sailing in wet boats (racing dighys) in cold waters, such as when “frostbite” sailing. A wetsuit needs to be tight and fit properly to work, which can be difficult for some people with disabilities. There are specialty companies that can modify wetsuits to fit based on their needs, such as Terrapin Wetsuits ( out of Texas. Check them out if you enjoy sailing in cold weather (or diving or surfing) and need help getting a wetsuit that fits.

Power linear actuator attached to a modified tiller, which is a stick that attached to the boat's rudder and controls its direction.

High Tech Driving

This article explains how the tiller, which is what controls the rudder and thus the direction of a sailboat, can be adapted for control with a joystick or sip-n-puff system. It is essentially a weatherproof linear actuator and electronics connected to a modified tiller.

Sip-n-Puff /Joystick Tiller Steering:

Example of a solid captains seat with lateral side supports that could be added to a boat with seat belt for a person with poor leg and trunk support.

Comfortable and Secure Seating

Another idea for people with limited leg and trunk support is to install fixed seats with seat belts or straps into the cockpit of a keel boat. A non-folding high back helm seat, such as: , could be a good choice.

Fixed captain’s seat that could be used to adapt a sailboat:

Hold Fast!

Like grab bars in a bathroom, sail boats have hand holds and rails all over the place to aid sailors in getting around the boat in rough seas or when the boat is healing over. Adding a handrail in strategic locations can  be very helpful in crossing the boat during a tack. Other tricks, like adding extra handles or wearing gloves with extra grip will aid people with poor grip strength in getting to the high side.

Stability Bar:

Common back saver shovel handle, designed to attach to shovels and other garden tools, can be added to a sailboat to create additional hand holds.

Adapted shovel handle or extension handle can be attached to rails, lifeline stanchions, or to the deck itself to provide extra purchase or something to hold onto with a closed fist. Sand Scoop Shovel Handle: or Just be sure to pick non-corrosive materials, and swap out any steel nuts and bolts for stainless steel.

Inexpensive polyester garden gloves dipped in rubber coating can provide a great deal of grip for sailors who need help holding on.

Not only can a good set of sailing gloves protect your hands from rope burn, but they can siginfcantly improve your grip. I’ve gone through a lot of gloves in my day. I’d say Zhik has the best full finger grip gloves out there. Extra grippy sailing gloves:

I also know people who pick up in expensive garden gloves that are dipped in a rubberized coating. They are thicker, very grippy, and a 3 pack can be purchased for under $10. Just make sure you get rid of them before they wear through.

Gifting Guide Day 20: Workshop DIY Gifts

Holiday Gifting Guide: DIY Assistive Technology Gifts

Nothing beats a holiday gift that someone has taken the time to make just for you! We have a whole lot of creative problem solvers and makers around our office and workshop, and many of us turn to the Instructables website for ideas on how to help people with disabilities.

Two rehabilitation engineers making a custom chair by grinding parts to shape in the rehabilitation engineering workshop.

Here is a sample of some projects that  you could make (or ask Santa to make) as assistive technology.

Motorized Light Bulb Changer:

DIY motorized light bulb changer from the Instructables website.

This project was developed by a gentleman who needed a way to change lightbulbs from a 2 story high chandelier, but someone in a wheelchair or of short stature could benefit from such a device. It contains a small motor, some other light electrical parts, some 3D printed parts, and a painter’s pole.

PVC Therapy Trike:

Volunteer build PVC tricycle being ridden by a child with special needs.

Instructions to build this child’s adapted tricycle were posted by volunteers for the Utah Assistive Technology Program. The adapted trike can be built for around $400 in materials, and is designed for children form ages 2 to 5 years, weighing under 50 pounds. Parts can be purchased from your local hardware store, or a kit can be purchased from .

Child’s Coloring Table:

DIY paper roll coloring table from the Instructables website.

I mentioned in a previous post how beneficial a table that holds rolled paper can be for children and adults with disabilities who which to draw, color, or paint. This project shows how one maker converted an old side table into an inexpensive coloring table.

WheeStroll- Wheelchair Stroller Attachment:

Man with DIY wheelchair mounted baby carrier, make from electrical conduit and an infant car seat.

This is a really neat project where a maker designed a system to attach an infant car seat to a wheelchair. The design combines off the shelf parts with some 3D printed brackets, and in beautiful in it’s simplicity.

Wheelchair Accessible Planter:

Home build wheelchair accessible garden planter

These plans show how to build a planter that was used at a community garden for wheelchair accessibility. I like that it is deeper than most other designs I have seen, but still provide for knee space due to the way the bottom slopes. It is a nice design.

Doorbell Room Light:

Woman who is deaf with a doorbell light flasher while her son is outside trying to get her attention.

This project was developed by a young man whose parents could not hear the door bell ring. The standard wireless door bell flasher was not working, so he decided to make something that would flash the room lights. This is a great project for someone who wants to learn more about electronics, programming, and soldering.

Guitar Tuner for People who are Blind:

Electronic guitar tuner that has been modified for people who are blind.

This is another great electronics project where a commercially available electronic guitar tuner has been modified with an Arduino microcontroller to change the visual output on the tuner to be played as tones through an earpiece.

Keep on Making!

Rehabilitation engineer Michael Papp displaying a custom made wood turning gouge with extra long handle.

I’ve always enjoyed making things in the workshop, and I have found common products can be easily tweaked to improve their form and fit for specific individuals. For example, I can make tool handles on chisels, screw drivers, and hammers thicker for some one with dexterity issues or arthritis. I can make wood turning gouges with longer handles for someone who might need to use a lathe while sitting in a wheelchair. Sometimes making your own assistive devices is the only way to meet a specific person’s need.

I could go on and on about all the cool projects on the Instructables website. It has something for every type of maker, whether you cook, sew, enjoy woodworking, gardening, electronics, programming, and especially for teachers.

Gifting Guide Day 17: Interacting With Your Furbaby

Disability friendly products for you and your pet.

When pets are a part of the family we want to make sure that everyone can take part in loving the furry family member. Below are some cool products we found that can help!

Image of Furbo dog camera shooting a treat to a yorkie, Image reads "Alexa ask Furbo to toss a treat every hour"

Smart Treat Dispenser/Camera

  • If you have a lot of anxiety (like me) about leaving your pet family at home then a camera is a great tool to check in on them. But what if virtual interaction with a pet could ease an anxiety attack, debilitating anxiety about being away from one’s comfort zone, or other behavioral symptoms resulting from a disability?
  • Furbo has taken that a step further and not only included the opportunity to talk to your pet through the device but it can also send them treats!
  • Automated treat dispensing isn’t just useful for when you’re away but it also helps if you have difficulty manipulating or accessing treats in person. The treats can be dispensed via the app or Furbo can also connect with Alexa to allow you to dispense treats by voice.
  • There are a variety of cameras and dog treat dispensers on the market so be sure to find one that fits your needs!

Find out more and where to buy at Furbo.

A rabbit interacting with a treat puzzle

Interactive Reward Puzzles

  • One of the things I found most difficult about having puppies while also having a disability that causes chronic fatigue and pain is keeping them entertained when I had zero energy pr too much pain at the end of the day. Enter: reward puzzles.
  • Interactive toys and reward puzzles require your pet to seek and solve the various buttons, trap doors, or interactions to “release” the motivating food reward.
  • The toys/puzzles come in a variety of challenge levels so if your pet is figuring them out in 2.7 seconds like my papillon then it’s time to up the challenge level!

Find a variety of options at Amazon, Chewy, or your favorite pet store.

a cat sitting next to an automatic food dispenser

Food Dispenser

  • If you find it difficult to manage the large pet food bags or manipulating to scoop out portions daily, consider an automatic food dispenser.
  • There are a variety of options available that can either be set up on a schedule or controlled via an app. Be sure to research which features will best suit your needs!

Find a variety of options at Amazon, Chewy, or your favorite pet store.

a bone shaped toy with illustrations of how it's operated by phone

Robot Toys

  • If your pet loves to play fetch or chase things then look for toys that can be activated by motion, remote, or an app. These features make it more accessible for you to interact with your pet without physically interacting with the toy. Super fun and rewarding for you both!
  • TIP: If you struggle with low vision look for toys that make sound or light up so you can help your pet locate a lost toy.
  • TIP: If you have limited fine motor look for toys that have large activation buttons (or that perhaps…could be modified by your favorite rehab engineer for ability switches)

Find a variety of options at Amazon, Chewy, or your favorite pet store.

Gifting Guide Day 16: Adapted Art Supplies
Lucy the dachshund/shepherd mix dog finishing off her latest painting.

I don’t know about your house, but around here, everyone from Grandma to the dog likes to be creative, and so art supplies are a common gift during the holiday season. Here are some art ideas for children and adults with disabilities.

Do A Dot Art! Markers

Two Children Playing with Do A Dot Art Markers

These bright and extra thick washable markers are very easy to grip. The extra thick sponge tip never dries out and makes perfect dots every time. The ink dries quickly and are gluten and latex-free.

These markers are designed to help children learn to develop eye-hand coordination and color recognition.

The Pencil Grip Kwik Stix Paint Pens

Child drawing a snowman with Kwick Stix paint sticks

Kwick Stix are tempera paint sticks that take the mess out of painting while allowing children to explore their artistic side. The paint is semisolid and twists  out of the pen, similar to a glue stick. The paint is washable, non-toxic, and assorted sets are available online.

Kid Made Modern Gem Jackpot Crayon Set

Grinning child coloring with yellow gem shaped crayon.

These large, gem shaped crayons are are easy to grip, and can be used to draw lines or fill in large areas of color. They work no matter how they are being held, so there is no wrong way to use them.

Art Desks with integrated Paper Roll

Two children drawing on paper unrolled on child sized art table.

Aside from gripping your markers, crayons, or paints, holding the paper in place can also be challenging for children. Art paper can be taped down to aid in holding it in place. A desk with an integrated paper roll holder makes it much easier for kids to get creating. While any old desk can easily be modified with a paper roll holder and platen, there are a variety of desks for children and adults that integrate this feature. Large sheets of paper provide more space to get creative, and children who have better gross motor skills have plenty of space to work.

Paper Roll Holder:

Paper Roll Art Table:

Paper Roll Desk:

Loop Scissors

Person gripping a pair of yellow loop safety sissors.

Called squeezy scissors by some, these ergonomic scissors help those with poor fine motor function or problems such as arthritis by automatically opening back up after each cut. Available with safety tips for kids, there are also sharper versions for adults for sewing, crafting, and general household use. There are also sewing scissors and garden shears available with a self opening spring.

Squeezy scissors for children:

Loop scissors for adults:

No Spill Paint Cups

Green no spill paint cup with green paint brush and green cap

No spill paint cups have a cap that prevents spills and messes. The funnel-shaped cap aids in getting the brush into the paint, and work well with tempura and other non-toxic paints. An additional cap can fit over the funnel top so that the paint can be easily reused.

Gifting Guide Day 9: Gadgets for Gardeners

Do ya dig these tools for gardening?

Gardening can be a relaxing and rewarding experience for everyone. However, there are some gardening activities that can be a hassle for people with various limitations. Below are some ideas of products that can help your outdoor hobbyist.

Gardening tools with upright handles

Ergonomic Tools

  • Unique Upright Handle: Unique upright handle with non-slip grip provides the natural way to hold a tool that keeps the hand and wrist in a natural and comfortable position,improve leverage, making it easier and less painful to use garden tools.These tools help take the strain and discomfort out of gardening from using traditional hand tools.
  • Scope of Application: Perfect for anyone who loves gardening but has trouble with traditional, straight-handled gardening tools due to long-term finger/hand joint damage from rheumatoid arthritis or related conditions.

Find out more at Amazon.

Lady sitting on a stool leaning over potted plant

Portable Seat/Stool

  • 60% of people over the age of 55 experiences osteoarthritis, knee and hip pain. It can be frustrating to live with the chronic pain of these ailments. However, you don’t have to give up your green thumb due to these issues. With Multi-functional Kneeler & Seat, you can keep doing what you love with minimal pain or no pain at all. These items can also help aging seniors assess household tasks that may require getting down low to reach areas.

Find out more and where to buy at Home And Garden Trends.

Farmer sitting on knee scooter leaning over potted plants

Knee Scooter

  • Eliminates strain caused by kneeling, squatting, and stooping
  • Simplifies even the most tedious tasks
  • Smoothly operates on nearly any surface

Find out more and where to buy at Gardeners Edge.

Long Handled Weed Puller

  • Get rid of weeds without risking your back with this long handled weeding tool. The 39” tall handle lets you remove the weeds without having to bend over or go down to your knees. The foot pedal lets you put enough force on the weed remover to penetrate the ground and grab the whole weed, including the roots, so it doesn’t grow back.

Find out more at Amazon.

Storage Caddy

  • Tired of struggling and juggling your shovel, rake, hand tools and supplies out to the garden? Or making multiple trips back and forth? This easy-roll caddy keeps tools organized in the shed. Then, when it’s time to head out to the garden, just roll the caddy where you need it and you’re ready to go. Includes 5-gallon bucket with fabric pocket organizer for small tools, a small bucket for carrying other supplies, vegetables, mulch and more. The top ring corrals long-handled tools.

Find out more and where to buy at Gardener’s Supply Company.

Raised Beds

  • Waist-high box eases knee and back strain
  • The height of the planter box has other advantages too: fewer weeds, reduced maintenance, and nowhere near as many critters nibbling at your prize plants. 

Find out more and where to buy at Gardener’s Supply Company.

Robot Lawn Mower

  • The WORX Landroid S is here to give larger lawn owners their weekends back. It comes with a robust 6.0Ah high-capacity Power Share battery and a wider 8-in. cutting width to mow up to a 1/8 acre. You’ll never have to cut your lawn again once you set up your Landroid. Just place the charging base, lay the boundary wire around the perimeter of your lawn and secure it with pegs, and finish setup on the handy Landroid App. You can even control Landroid and schedule mowing times from the App, without ever getting off your couch. It’s packed with cutting-edge tech to ensure it does a good job and leaves you with a lawn you can be proud of. 

Find out more and where to buy at Home Depot.

Robot Weeder

  • This one is new to me! How about a robot weed puller? How awesome to get a little help maintaining the tedious task of weeding.

Find out more and where to buy at Amazon.

Do you have a favorite gardening product that you’d like to share about? Comment below!

Did you enjoy this training module? Please complete our participant survey to help us with our federal reporting.

Follow us on social media to keep up with the latest on the Gifting Guide!

This list is provided for informational purposes only as APTAT does not endorse specific products or brands. When purchasing be sure to thoroughly research the product features to ensure it will meet your individual needs.

Gifting Guide Day 3: Tools To Make DIY Easier

Your favorite DIYer needs these tools!

DIY can be fun but super tedious if you’re battling certain limitations. The “tools” for a successful project are endless so here are just a few options that come to mind.

Drill Guide

  • A drill guide can help if it’s difficult to keep the drill upright or in place.

Adaptive Scissors

  • Easy grip scissors can be safer and easier to manipulate with hand weakness.
  • PRO TIP: Be sure you’re using the right scissors for the job!

Electric Screwdriver

  • One of my favorite tools!
  • An electric screwdriver is perfect for those tasks where a drill has a bit too much power but a using a manual screwdriver might be tedious, fatiguing, or painful.
  • PRO TIP: Don’t forget the bits!

Measuring Devices

  • An easy see tape measure, talking tape measure, or laser measure can help where taking measurements might be physically, cognitively, or visually difficult to achieve.
  • PRO TIP: Pick a laser measure that connects to an app to log the measurements or aid in drawing room layouts!

Magnifying Light

  • Lighting is an important part of any workshop. If it’s difficult to see your project it can be unsafe and discouraging. Select a magnifying lamp for tasks that require fine motor or delicate attention.
  • An articulating arm on a clamp can make it easy to position the lamp anywhere in your workshop.

Do you have a favorite workshop product that you’d like to share about? Comment below!

Did you enjoy this training module? Please complete our participant survey to help us with our federal reporting.

Follow us on social media to keep up with the latest on the Gifting Guide!

This list is provided for informational purposes only as APTAT does not endorse specific products or brands. When purchasing be sure to thoroughly research the product features to ensure it will meet your individual needs.

Gifting Guide Day 2: Adapted Games

Game Night for Everyone!

Game night isn’t inherently accessible to everyone….but it could be! With just a little extra consideration we could make game night more inclusive. Below are just a FEW examples of ways to improve accessibility.

What to look for:

  • Products that make it easier to manipulate game pieces.
  • Games with large print or digital platforms where print can be adjusted.
  • Games that don’t require a lot of manipulation of small pieces or have alternative input/targeting options.

Card Holders

  • For individuals with difficulty holding cards there are a variety of products on the market to assist. Just search for “card holder”.
  • Alternatively, search for a digital version of the card game!

Monopoly two ways…or more

  • You’ve seen the local town Monopoly game boards…did you know there were versions that could benefit people with certain limitations?
  • The Super Electronic Version of Monopoly eliminates the need to count and manipulate money. It’s simple to tap the credit card on the banking device and it tabulates everything for you.
  • The Braille/Low Vision version of Monopoly provides large text and braille cards as well as a tactile game board surface.

Alternative Dice Rolling

Digital Games for Groups

  • One of my most favorite games I’ve played recently is OutSmarted, a trivia game for groups. Though the game comes with a physical gameboard the game can be operated almost entirely from a smart device and mirrored on the TV for everyone to see. Having both of these options makes it easier for the player to roll the dice and read the trivia questions.
  • Another option would be to look for multi player games that can be played entirely on a digital device. An example would be Jackbox Games which can be played on multiple platforms and has a variety of game packages to suit your groups interests.

Do you have a favorite accessible game product that you’d like to share about? Comment below!

Did you enjoy this training module? Please complete our participant survey to help us with our federal reporting.

Follow us on social media to keep up with the latest on the Gifting Guide!

This list is provided for informational purposes only as APTAT does not endorse specific products or brands. When purchasing be sure to thoroughly research the product features to ensure it will meet your individual needs.

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