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Dortmund’s first inclusive MakerSpace is one year old: Scientists from the TU Dortmund University make 3D printing available for people with disabilities

On 30 August Dortmund’s first inclusive MakerSpace celebrated its first anniversary. Scientists of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Sciences of the TU Dortmund University and Dr. Bastian Pelka from the Social Research Centre, together with the Office for Augmentative and Alternative Communication of the workshops of the AWO at the Leuthardstraße, established a MakerSpace, where people with disabilities can use 3D printers on their own – for instance to create aids. The MakerSpace is also open and free of charge for all other visitors.

“People with disabilities often need aids to participate in everyday life or work life”, Assistant Professor Ingo Bosse from the Department for Motor and Developmental Disabilities in Rehabilitation and Education of the TU Dortmund University explains. He leads the project “SELFMADE” funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in which people with disabilities can produce their own aids together with Makers in so-called “MakerSpaces”. Besides modern 3D printers, principles of social innovation are also applied – people with and without disabilities work together on new solutions for social problems. “It is our target”, explains Dr. Bastian Pelka, responsible for the accompanying research and the topic Social innovations “to enable people with disabilities to acquire and use new technologies autonomously, so that they can address their own needs – for example regarding aids - better.” 

3D printers are devises, which can liquefy solid materials – mostly plastics in the form of long strings – and apply it very precisely in layers. As these materials cool down, new “printed out” objects emerge, which can take nearly every shape and size. For people with impairments this is interesting, as 3D printing allows very individualised “production” – a method of creating which is much better capable to take individual needs into account than industrial serial production. Therefore, the first inclusion-oriented MakerSpace in Dortmund was consciously established in an institution, where people with disabilities socialise every day. 

As a pilot project, an inclusive MakerSpace has been established in the Dortmund Office for Augmentative and Alternative Communication of the AWO at the Leuthardtstraße. In this external working group for people with disabilities, the creation of individual aids by means of 3D printing and other maker technologies is already professionalised and handed over to the users for one year. People with disabilities can decide autonomously, how aids shall look and produce them on their own.