Assistive Technology Makers' Fair Brings Makers Across the Country Together

On Saturday, September 29, 2018, individuals devoted to creating solutions for individuals who experience disabilities participated in the first national Assistive Technology (AT) Makers' Fair: Making AT for All Conference & Expo in Concord, NH.

The AT Makers’ Fair goal was to inspire participants to become creative problem solvers, bringing together makers of all abilities to share ideas, develop new skills and enhance innovations for persons with disabilities. Participants, exhibitors, and presenters came from more than 20 states, territories, and Canadian provinces, where they learned methods, materials, and know-how needed to efficiently create everyday just-in-time devices and technologies.

“It was amazing to see the enthusiasm of individuals from over 20 states and countries create more than 800 devices,” reflected Dr. Therese Willkomm, Director of Assistive Technology in New Hampshire (ATinNH). “Some people kept the devices for themselves, others fabricated devices to share with individuals who experience disabilities.”

The conference kicked off with keynotes by Dr. Therese Willkomm and Bill Binko. Participants then had the opportunity to attend the Make AT Café, where they created and took home more than ten different AT devices, to choose between 25 workshops, and to explore the exhibit hall to learn more about companies and organizations working in the field.

The day ended with the AT Invention Contest, where seven participants exhibited their assistive technology inventions. Attendees voted for their favorite inventions. The winners, Hal Koch and Bill Haskett, won the 2018 Maker of the Year award, presented by Diana Martin from the AT Invention Contest Sponsor, BAE Systems, for their Personal Assistive Lift.

“It was an enormous privilege and a challenge to realize Therese's vision for this event - and I think we got there!” shares Amy Goldman, a Technical Assistance Specialist at the AT3 Center. “Anyone who has put together a conference knows there are many, many moving parts.  Add to that the need to assemble kits so people could EXPERIENCE ‘making!’  But it was the collective dedication of IOD staff and the many organizations and individuals (not to mention the UNH students) that participated in the planning that was responsible for the success of the event.”

Planned by a national committee of assistive technology stakeholders, the AT Makers Fair was hosted by Assistive Technology in New Hampshire (ATinNH), New Hampshire’s statewide assistive technology program. Generous support came from Gold Sponsors Future in Sight, MassMATCH, the NH Developmental Disabilities Council, and UNH Online, as well as Silver Sponsor Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA).