Music + Access

Access-driven design for music

Open-source electronics and upcycled materials present new possibilities for removing barriers to music. From hacking a guitar to controlling a computer, to forging a theremin out of tinfoil, these instrument-making workshops demonstrate how new and adapted musical instruments can open up access in novel ways.

In the spirit of the Disability rights slogan “Nothing About Us Without Us”, we hope to create a platform that amplifies the voices of Disabled folks as innovators, rather than imposing solutions.

Building upon the idea of empathy in design thinking, and moving toward conversation and inclusion, we are working directly from lived experience.  Our collaborative design challenges are set by professional Disabled musicians, and similarly we hope to engage diverse groups who might not yet have the opportunity to self-select as makers or music technologists.

We have developed a selection of open-source tools that will be available to try out and modify before and after the sessions: 3D printing, sensors that can be incorporated without the need for circuit design, and software with various access routes (see for examples).  All examples will include easy-read versions, and we are working toward screen reader and switch access. 

By the end of each workshop, participants can expect to produce a sensor-based instrument, using code that can be transferred to a mobile app of the physical version.  Our instruments can be played with small or large movements: for example, the same sound could be controlled with a finger gesture or the movement of a dancer across a room.

No musical or technical background necessary, just a willingness to explore sound and engage with accessibility!  There will be opportunities to make music throughout, ideally culminating in a jam session for those interested. We want to know how we can make these workshops accessible to you: please get in touch with suggestions, concerns, or access requests.

These instruments-making workshops are part of a new project under the leadership of Charles Matthews and Gift Tshuma. The approach is inspired by the Drake Music DMLab community in the UK, and builds upon Education Makers’ recent gamepad + access workshops.

Explore our resources here: 

Charles Matthews

Charles Matthews

Charles Matthews is a creative technologist currently specialising in access and music. Charles has worked closely with UK organisation <a href=>Drake Music</a> for several years, developing: a custom guitar with musician John Kelly (the Kellycaster), an outdoor installation featuring sensor-based instruments (Planted Symphony), and a musical lazy susan for turn-taking in classrooms. Charles has created an open-source framework called, which will form the basis of forthcoming workshops in collaboration with Montreal-based musician Gift Tshuma.
Houda Jawhar

Houda Jawhar

MA Student Educational Technology

Houda’s passion for integrating technology in education has led her to pursue her Master’s in Educational Technology at Concordia University, following a career path as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse and a Nursing Instructor. Driven by her innate love and enthusiasm for tinkering and making, Houda has joined Education Makers to research and develop 3D fabrics and embedded wearable prototypes. She interrogates what these new plastic composites mean for everyday life and how our skin interacts with them.

Ann-Louise Davidson

Ann-Louise Davidson

Professor | Director of Innovation Lab

Ann-Louise Davidson Ph.D. is the Director of Concordia University’s Innovation Lab and is the Innovation Strategic Advisor for the Faculty of Arts and Science. She is also Associate Director of the Milieux Institute for Art, Culture and Technology, where she directs #MilieuxMake, the institute’s makerspace.