STEMM for everyone now means <em>everyone</em>, including people with disabilities

STEMM for everyone now means everyone, including people with disabilities

Too often STEMM outreach programs overlook people living with disabilities. Makerspaces can be inadequately accessible, with activities that don’t meet the unique needs of this community. At Monash Faculty of Information Technology, we believe everyone deserves the chance to participate in STEMM.

Making for Alll workshop

That’s why Dr Kirsten Ellis – Inclusive Technology researcher and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Human-Centred Computing at Monash IT – has created an innovative project to engage people of all abilities with scientific principles.

Her initiative Making for All: Reaching people with disabilities enables those with sensory, significant motor or cognitive disabilities to make their own technology. It also aligns with Monash IT’s commitment to innovating for social good.

For 2020 National Science Week, Dr Ellis sent out 550 free circuit-making kits and training materials to disability organisations in Victoria, such as Wallara and Gippsland Library Service Community. The kits can be used as enrichment activities in a group residential setting or completed by individuals at home.

Making for All participant

Tailored to different skill levels, each kit contains easy-to-use components such as large foam blocks that can be pushed together with the back of a hand. Conductive tape replaces fiddly fine wires traditionally used in circuit-making. And a button cell battery powers a LED light or vibration motor – either as a stand-alone or fanciful feature.

‘The simple act of making a circuit lets people have control,’ said Dr Ellis. ‘They’ve been told that they can’t do certain things – like make circuits. But if people see that, by changing how the activity is designed, they can make a circuit, they might then ask, “What else can we do?”’

Once Making for All participants complete their circuit-making activities, they’re encouraged to share a photo of themselves with their creation, showing the world exactly how much STEMM people with disabilities can achieve.

Through her project, Dr Ellis invited everyone to join this year’s celebration of science and technology in a creative, hands-on way.