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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities

Tech carts advancing accessibility


December 15, 2017

For the first time ever, hundreds of mobile tech carts are now accessible in many classrooms. Nick Rowe, of IPF’s Carpentry shop, helped create an arm for the carts that make the screens easier to reach for those who use wheelchairs.

“The old ones had a fixed hood so the screen was always on the same angle and it really wasn’t usable by a person in a wheelchair,” Rowe said. “They challenged us to come up with a way that the angle for viewing the screen could be changed properly for a person standing up to a person sitting down. The other challenge was to make it so it’s reachable.”

With the help of others on campus, Rowe was able the create a technology that not only moved up and down, but also swiveled side to side

“We had a nice group of people that had one goal, and it all came together,” Rowe added.

Since the beginning of the design in 2015, Rowe mentioned that the arm hasn’t evolved much. He used to build them by hand, costing about $80 a piece. He now has the help of Olsen Mastermark Company in Lansing where they use a laser to cut out the pieces and have lowered the cost to about $50 a piece.

“Also, when I was making them, they were made out of unbreakable polycarbonate which looks the same but it’s a different material,” he said. “But when this company started making them they used acrylic, which is breakable, but we luckily haven’t had any break. They’re a good company to work with though and have made the edges much smoother.”

Rowe has not made any for other campuses or technology companies, but he did mention that many people have come to take pictures to make their own prototype, which is helping spread the idea around the country.

“It was a big step up for a lot of people,” he said. “It’s always fun doing this stuff because it makes you feel like you’re making a difference… You’re making life a little easier for someone to learn.”