We, as tinkerers and engineers, have a special gift: We can design and make things -- a process seen simply as magical to those who lack the skills and know-how we've developed over the years.
What many of us don't realize is that we can, with fairly little effort, have a big impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Typically electronic devices can be made more user friendly, but such fixes are either expensive or not commercially available. And often those with disabilities can't design and make the equipment themselves. An engineer volunteering his or her time to design and make a solution for another person not only helps that one person but learns valuable lessons in useability.
I've compiled a list of resources for engineers who want to lend a helping hand. These nine websites are where you'll find a community of people who need things, plans for things you can make, and others like yourself who are willing to collaborate with ideas or effort. While many of the sites may seem to focus mainly on video gaming, you'll find that the modifications transfer well to other areas.
In my opinion, this simple site is one of the absolute best references available. There is a library of existing solutions, a collection of plans for DIY projects, and detailed information about accessible gaming in general. This site is easily one of the absolute best places for someone to look if they need ideas or references.
Started by John Schimmel and Holly Cohen, DIY Ability is a community focusing on modifying things for easier use by those with specific physical needs. What really stands out about DIY ability is its new "project" system. You can upload a step-by-step guide with clear instructions on how to make the necessary modifications. This is invaluable, as reading a forum thread can often be confusing and you can miss steps that weren't laid out clearly. They have just added this feature though, so there aren't many projects yet -- you should go contribute to help flesh it out!
This is a simple list. It is beautiful in its simplicity. There is a PROBLEM, and a SOLUTION documented, but not much more. There aren't a ton of details on each project, but there are a ton of projects for you to pull inspiration from. If you ever find yourself in the position to make something for someone, this is a great place to start.