Makers Making Change's Chad Leaman | Access Tech Live
Steven, you know it's funny that you bring up the gaming because we have a guest standing by, Makers Making Change is a very cool program from the Neil Squire whose mission is to use technology, knowledge, and passion to empower Canadians with disability. And joining us right now from EA in Vancouver, hence the gaming reference, is Chad Leaman who's the Director of Innovation at Neil Squire. Chad, thank you so much for being with us. Can you tell us where you are? I know you're at EA but what is going on? - Yeah, we're at Electronics Arts here in Vancouver, BC. It's a beautiful day in BC, I was actually just at the game accessibility conference yesterday and they were sort of doing that unveiling of Forza that you just showed, so very cool.
We're doing a Build-a-Thon, we have a program Makers Make a Change and we create assistive technology for people. And today we're gonna be building one of the devices from our library, one of our open source joystick projects. - That is so cool and it's not the first event of its kind. You've been doing this for quite some time. So I've gotta ask you, when you do an event like this and obviously you want people to talk about it and we're putting the focus on it right now, what do you wanna accomplish at the end of the day when today is done? What is the mission and what will it be fulfilled? - Yeah, so when we have our Build-a-Thon events, volunteers come together and they help fabricate and our devices.
So today we're making one of our joystick, we've just released these. These are joysticks that allow alternate input so you can plug this into your computer, use it as a mouse, or you could plug it into your Xbox, AC, or your computer and use it as a joystick for gaming. So you think video game controllers are literally one size fits all. We have this range of joysticks that we're putting out and it allows people to have a joystick where it works for them. And then there's different sort of topper pieces. So got the round bit, we have some that are sort of more goal post shape and some just have that grip piece, finger ring ones.
So really allow the input to be customized and work for the person. So we have EA staff come here today and we're gonna be building a bunch of these joystick items. - At the end of the day, Chad, who's gonna benefit from the joysticks that you're creating today? How are they distributed? Are they stocking stuffers for the holidays? - Yeah, we're in the middle of a campaign that we've launched called Hacking for the Holidays and we're looking to build a bunch of assistive switches, alternate joysticks as well as adapt a bunch of toys for kids with disabilities.
The goal's to have over 2,000 devices built and delivered to families, therapists, and rec centers across Canada. Over this last year, we set up number of these game checkpoints where people with disabilities can go in and try the really wide range of assistive technologies available for gaming and figure out what works well for them. So this is a big event for us. It's watching Marc our 10,000th item built through our open source sort of network and having all sorts come together and build devices for us so it's a really big milestone, it's great to celebrate it here at EA today. - [Marc] Now you raised $28,000, if my information's correct, delivered 600 toys, 900 switches last year.
What's the goal for 2023? - Yeah, our goal is 2000 devices this year, over a hundred different events and close to 8,000 people volunteer hours to make that happen. So we're in the mad rush, we keep having people come forward and a lot of this works actually, while we're here at EA today, ends up being done in schools. So we teach kids STEM skills, how to 3D print, how to build circuits, but we take that for that sort of social purpose.
So we're adapting toys, usually comparable with five bucks with their parts and make a toy accessible to switch access. And it really opens up the opportunity for cause and effective play for people. And then same, with these video game controllers, that allows people to have input and gaming opportunity where they otherwise wouldn't have. So we're really excited to work with their partners that get these in the hands of people that need them. - If someone wants to learn more, Chad, if they want to get involved if they wanna attend an event, can they? Is it public? and where do they find out all that information? - Yeah, if you go to the Makers Making Change website, makersmakingchange.com,
you can look under Engage and there's an events listing. and we're continually publishing events. Some are in schools or in corporations that are more private. We do host a number of public events and libraries, community centers, maker spaces, and hack spaces. So if you're interested in hosting an event, please reach out, we would love to work with you and you're interested in attending event.
We can plan something with you to make that happen. You don't need a bunch of skill required. We've taught you know, kids in grade five how to solder, they build it by the end of their 45 minute class. So you can learn those technical skills and really put them to work to have an impact for people with disabilities in your community.
- That's amazing. Chad, every week we throw a question out to the audience and since you're here I want to take advantage of it. Especially because Steven's over in Amsterdam, and I think gaming is a perfect segue into this because when it comes to the term nostalgic tech, okay? That could mean anything but I think there's a lot of nostalgia especially in gaming consoles and stuff like that. So today's question is, what piece of nostalgic tech can you not let go of? Something that's in a drawer that you, every time you clean you're like, "I can't get rid of this." Who knows what it might be? Is there anything that you can think of that you've got in your arsenal that you just can't let go of? - Oh yeah, yeah.
You're gonna pry that old 8-bit Nintendo from my cold, dead hands, I have that for sure. I got one of the new rebooted ones, so it's great besides having to blow the cartridges or whatever. Yeah, I'm on those earlier games of, or easier to access, right? It's just a joystick, a two buttons. So make an accessible setup, those are easier too.
But yeah, to Mario or the old Zelda games, take me back to my six year old self. - Chad, thank you so much for taking the time to join me. I know you got a lot busy day ahead of you.
It's only what, 9:11 in the morning there in Vancouver. Best of luck at today's event and of course at home, if you wanna check it out on Twitter, it is... Or sorry on X it's @makermakechange or the website makersmakingchange.com
and you can learn more about the Neil Squire Program, obviously makersmakingchanges.com. Question of the day. - [Chad] Thank you. - We said it before. I want to know what you think at home, what piece of nostalgic tech can you not let go of? We wanna know what it is. If you want to tell us why, go for it, if there's a story behind it. Let us know, it is at "Access Tech Live" on all our social media and of course our email address feedback @accesstechlive.com
and you can get involved. Coming up, Steven's back from CES unveiled in Amsterdam with Brian Comiskey the Director of Thematic Programs, after this. - [Announcer] We want to hear from you, follow us on social media and get involved @accesstechlive. We'll be right back. (uplifting music)