VHS Helps Makers Making Change Build Mouth-Operated Joysticks

A completed LipSync. (Image Credit: Janet Martin)

Makers Making Change (MMC) is an innovative program that engages makers to build assistive devices for people with disabilities. With a pandemic ban on gatherings, MMC could not host group build events, and supplies ran low for their most requested device, the LipSync joystick. Vancouver Hack Space (VHS) members jumped in to help, building over 30 devices.

“VHS has always been very supportive of MMC, which we’ve appreciated very much. When I put out a call for help making assistive devices, I was overwhelmed by their ingenuity and selflessness. Skilled makers can have a tremendous impact on the lives of people with disabilities.” — Chad Leaman, program founder.

VHS is very proud of the whole LipSync team: Bob Johnson, David Bynoe, Janet Martin, Jim Stamper, Jon Grierman, and Mimi Xia.

Mimi Xia with her LipSyncs. (Image Credit: Mimi Xia)

What is a LipSync?

The LipSync is a mouth-operated joystick that allows control of a computer cursor with minimal head and neck movement. All the electronics are housed in the ‘head’ of the device so there are no additional control boxes, making the LipSync a good candidate for portable, wheelchair-mounted applications.

How Did VHS Help?

When LipSync stock ran low, VHS members:

  • 3D-printed parts
  • soldered electronic components
  • assembled hardware and uploaded code
  • tested and calibrated completed devices.

The team had all the expertise and tools to work safely at home or at the hack space.  Afterwards, the LipSyncs went to quality control at MMC, before heading on to people who needed them.

3D-printed parts. (Image Credit: Jim Stamper)

“The fact that VHS members were able to build so many devices, on their own time, for nothing more than a thank-you… it’s hard to find the right words to express my gratitude and appreciation. VHS and hackspaces in general are filled with people that may not want to be in the spotlight, but they have the ability to give back and do remarkable things that can really empower people with disabilities.” — Chad Leaman


Soldering production line. (Image Credit: David Bynoe)

What VHS Members Say

Building assistive devices gives makers a chance to problem-solve, work with new technology, use and learn new skills, all while making a difference.

“The LipSync kit was high quality and a joy to make. Being able to build and test the device really gave me a sense of how amazing the LipSync is and what it does for people.” — Janet Martin.

“I find it incredibly satisfying to know that, as makers, we have the ability to disrupt the usual production methods and produce items for people that need it the most at a fraction of the cost.” — Jim Stamper.

“For me, it’s about using what skills I have to be able to make a difference in other people’s lives.” — Mimi Xia.

Mimi will soon be hosting a workshop at the New Media Gallery in New Westminster on prosthetic design, an opportunity she credits in part to her involvement with Makers Making Change.

Future Projects

Until MMC can resume group events, VHS is ready to make more LipSyncs. In the meantime, makers can get involved on the the MMC website which has a database of open-source assistive devices as well as a forum that connects makers with individual device requests.

If you’d like to work on these projects but require workshop access, VHS membership is a great option. VHS and MMC make an amazing team and we look forward to building many more assistive devices together.