Category Archives: The ‘mod’ squad

wheelchair wheel covers 101

Bron at Big Brother, Little Sister asked how we go about making the wheelchair covers.

Here’s the quick method we use for easy changing of designs.


Mac has plastic covers over his spokes which you can remove by taking off the quick release wheels, then the push rims (screws on the inside of the wheels).  It is a little bit fiddly, but I don’t do this job daily so it is OK.

The work is not top quality – they are usually for quick celebrations, instant gratification.  They don’t need to last a long time.  They literally ‘sit on’ the plastic cover – we rarely use anything else to attach them unless it is a heavy design.

If you don’t have wheelcovers you could revert to the old way we used to decorate bikes with crepe paper woven through the spokes or make some laminated pics you can tie on to the spokes with cable ties or twist ties.


Filed under The 'mod' squad

Ben 10


Ben 10 wheels as requested by the ‘bossy’ speller…


  • 3 x Ben 10 party hats opened out and pasted around the wheel.
  • 1 x large Ben 10 sticker
  • 5 x small Ben 10 stickers
  • clear contact to cover
  • green cardboard as base template


Filed under The 'mod' squad

i have a dream…

Well I have this dream for some years now.  It’s not that I haven’t done anything about it, it’s just that there is a limit to my skills and knowledge and an even more finite limit to my finances.

Some years ago I trawled the internet studying all the LEGO Mindstorms NXT Robotic Technology geniuses to see who I felt was the best in the world.

My intention… to see if by combining LEGO Robotic Technology with lightweight electric cars we could develop light weight, affordable and safe mobility devices which could not only ‘follow lines’ and ‘avoid obstacles’ they could localize themselves in known environments providing safe passage for users like Mac who have significant vision and mobility issues to contend with.

I tracked down Daniele Benedetelli, an Italian Automation Engineering Masters Graduate who is, not only a robotics legend, but also a musical genius… therein solving my personal shortcomings as I don’t believe Danny has a limit to his skills and knowledge.

He was enthusiastic about the project and despite neither of us having any money to ‘pursue it full time’ we have been collaborating (time permitting) ever since.

Here is an application Danny has submitted for our project to Campus Party Europe, hoping to gain the support needed for development.

It is nice to have a shared vision of lightweight, affordable, smart wheelchairs for EVERYONE with someone who doesn’t even come from the disability sector.

I abhor the idea all the therapists and medicos involved in the lives of our children believe ‘learned immobility’ is acceptable.  I resent all these organisations who receive money because OUR children have disabilities think it is OK to compromise their lives.

I will keep chasing this dream because one day this might mean at the very least:


  • Mac can move himself around/between classrooms – further reducing the need for ‘teachers aide/personal attendant’ support.
  • Mac can transport himself around the school either by following specific coloured lines, algorithmically mapped safe passage or ‘free wheeling’ with obstacle avoidance.
  • Mac can deliver message to the office, collect items required by the teacher or run errands just as the other students do.
  • Mac can go where he wants and be with who ever he choses during break time.


  • I can ‘call Mac for dinner’  and he can come (or not) of his own volition,
  • I can send Mac out to round up the chooks to put them to bed for the night, feed the dog or close the gate.
  • Mac can leave and enter any room in the house whenever he wants to.
  • Mac could decide to ‘pop’ up the hill to visit his Grandparents or his cousins… all by himself.
  • Mac would have independent mobility that is inexpensive and really “smart”.

It is certainly worth the challenge – for all kids, not just Mac.


Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help, The 'mod' squad


As promised for those interested here is a copy of the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I made for Mac to use at school.

Message me in the comments if you would like to receive copy of the MS Excel template (include your email address) or send me an email at sandgburns [at] bigpond [dot] com with morseSPELL in the subject line.

If you are planning on actually using it for learning then a couple of external options will make this much more user friendly for you.

1.  Download the full set of .wav files for each letter and number of morse code from: Morse Code Letter & Numbers

2. Trial or purchase the software: Sounding Keyboard and Mouse from (This allows you to assign any sound to any keyboard or mouse function – see the instructions tab within the file for more details).

So far so good with this program – I was thrilled when I found the Sounding Keyboard software – that made life much easier (and probably saved me from learning a whole lot of computer coding that would only make my head hurt).

I can/will assign a third switch to the TAB so that either Mac or the assistant can use a switch rather than pressing the TAB key.  This is just a matter of plugging another switch into the CRICK USB interface.

Mac’s cousins played with the morseSPELL for over an hour tonight – so it can’t be too boring.

It was a funny situation to observe in the lounge room tonight where the kids went from playing the Wii to sitting down and “playing” Morse Code.  Interestingly Mac’s Pa had a “real” Morse Code machine in the shed – it’s one he is fixing for someone – so that was out too.  Talk about ‘centuries colliding’.

I will add a morseNUMBERS in eventually as well as a morseCONTROL for learning computer controls – but for now, I am happy with morseSPELL which means when the children do LIPI in class (Literacy Skills Program) Mac will have congruency while he too perfects his letters etc.

And just to make me feel like I am on the right track here’s an excerpt from Gaylon Ponder and Ricardo Ortega (AAC Consultants from Words +, Inc) who presented at the CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference 2004.

Two-Switch Morse Code

In order to make a letter in Morse Code the client must learn the code. It is unbelievably easy. For instance, an “e” is one switch hit, so is a “t”. Morse Code is nothing more than a different way of writing a letter. In Two-Switch Morse Code one switch sends dots, and the other sends dashes. In order to make an “e” you have to hit the dot switch one time – pretty easy compared to what we had to do to learn to print an “e” with a pencil. A “t” is the dash switch one time. Two dot switch hits is an “i” every time. Three dot switches yields an “s” every time. We learned 26 complicated ways of making letters on paper when we were little kids. In Morse Code we ask the client to learn 26 simple ways of making letters, and provide an easy way for them to do it. The access is direct select without the fine motor and visual load. The client does not need to watch the scanner, or the keyboard. They have to hit switches in the correct sequence within a certain time frame, but not at a specific time.


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Technology - things that help, The 'mod' squad

Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Macco!

A wheelchair drawn by reindeer in the hot, Australian summer… of course!

The exhibitionist child of ours shows just how proud he is as he arrives at school dressed for the Christmas festivities that day.  Apparently he LOVES having reindeer on his chair and he LOVES having lights on there too.

Mac is very proud to show off his Christmas wheelchair to friendsAnd how do you pull your look together…

the breakdown of items to “pimp my ride, Christmas style”

  • Two singing reindeer (hobby horse style)  bolted to the front of the chair.  When you press their antlers they sing and their nose flashes – I am sure the teachers were thrilled.
  • Coloured christmas lights for each wheel $2.99 per set.  These run on 2 x AA batteries and are easy to wrap around the wheel rims when you don’t need to self propel.
  • Santa Clause wheel covers made from one of those extra large gift bags purchased for $2 from one of the discount stores
  • Tinsel trim to ‘up the fancy’ on the wheel rims.
  • “model’s own Santa hat” 🙂
  • Oh, and there were some ‘elf style spats’ on his shoes made from the sleeves of an old green t-shirt and cut with jagged ends.

Then to be sure you completely disrupt the class for the entire day you take in your very large sound activated singing polar bear who channels Elvis with a bit of Tom Jones style dancing thrown in.  As it was an entire school “Doing Things Together Day” the bear was a huge hit with all the students as they rotated through his activity task area.

The chair will remain “pimped for Christmas” at Mac’s insistence.  He really is quite terrible, he just laps up the attention he gets everywhere he goes.


Filed under Access all Areas, The 'mod' squad, things that make me go "glll"

touch tablet

Here’s a good introductory video by “leopardsoup” on YouTube reviewing the ‘just released’ Wacom Bamboo Touch (touch tablet).

This would be a great little option to combine with a head switch (or switches in general) for Mac and others with physical impairments.  

I think it is selling for about $70USD.  I can see great potential for adding it to the computer driving the electronic whiteboard at school and allowing Mac to have some opportunity to move the mouse curser to where he wants without relying on the mouse.  I am assuming it won’t get ‘hot’ like the tablet computer does so could even sit on/near his lap and would allow for the computer screen to be placed in an optimal position (which varies depending on the day with Mac).

Another example of ‘access on main street’ – we love accessible products under $100.  I wonder if something like this could eventually be wireless?

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Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help, The 'mod' squad

the laptop lad

We are starting to push for more computer activities in the classroom.  It has been a staged introduction of technology from my end.  I know, for those who ‘don’t eat it up’, technology is quite overwhelming.   By approaching it in a gradual fashion I am hoping more sticks, more is used and understood.

I am just starting to get Mac’s laptop organised for school.

  • 66 Microsoft Updates were uploaded yesterday (oops)
  • Service Pack 2 installed (another oops)
  • iTunes loaded (needed SP2) and Hooked on Phonics podcasts downloaded
  • SwitchSkills 1 loaded in preparation for some switching activity
  • ChooseItMaker2 ordered and awaiting delivery

The computer we are using for Mac is a Fujitsu Lifebook P series tablet computer.  It has an 8.9″ display which is a touchscreen (finger or stylus) and can be connected to bigger screens (and Smartboards) if we want.  It weighs less than 1kg and currently runs XP Tablet Edition software.

my laptopMac has a mouse (tiger-mouse?) which has been switch adapted by his Pa.  We bought it off  Ebay (Hong Kong) for less than $10 including postage.

TigerMouse   HeadSwitch

We also have a Jelly Bean Switch to use as a head switch.  Our adapter comes off a $14 clip on desk lamp which we pulled the electrics off, added a small piece of 3ply wood with velcro and attach switches to that.   Significantly less than the $700 special needs mounting device suggested to us.


 Down the track I would consider getting one of the headswitches like this…  but at almost $300 it can sit on our wish list until it becomes ‘essential’. 

The next step is to decide what software I need to use to design a “web style” dashboard (but local on his computer) for all his schoolwork/programs etc to be accessed.  I think Adobe’s Dreamweaver might be the right option – but any suggestions are most welcome.  Basically I want something that is easy for anyone to find what they are looking for from a digital native 5yo to a technologically challenged adult.


Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help, The 'mod' squad