One Small Product, One Big Problem.

Her face was as red as the mini basketball in her lap, catching our eye, Stephanie beamed as she rapidly propelled her wheelchair towards us. As an active middle schooler, and exceptionally social young woman, it was no surprise when she and her mother agreed to meet with me and my team.

While engaging in front end research at Adapt Design, we caught up with Stephanie during her physical therapy session at University of Michigan's facilities. She was eager to open up about her love of school, but we soon found a topic that dimmed her radiating excitement: field trips. 

Stephanie’s middle school offers a variety of field trips that allow students to learn curriculum in an interesting and hands-on way. These field trips give students new perspective as well as the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned. 

A recent study from The Wagner Group showed that kids who take field trips are more likely to graduate both high school and college, with 59% showing an improvement in their grades. The survey also found that among those who traveled to learn, 86% believed they were more curious inside the classroom as a result. 

Stephanie however, was robbed of these critical experiences. Her insurance company refused to provide her with the hardware necessary to secure her wheelchair into a school bus.

The company claimed that the parts, known as a “transit option”, were a non-essential luxury item that must be paid for by Stephanie’s family. However, these parts would cost her family upwards of $250 out of pocket, a cost that they could not afford at the time. 

Stephanie and her mother exchanged a look of helplessness, before sharing she had missed the field trips. She had no choice but to remain at home while her classmates participated in significant educational experiences that could have proved to be essential to her academic success.

My face grew as red as the mini basketball in her lap when I realized it was not a wheelchair part that was labeled as luxury, it was her education.

- Sidney, Co-Founder & Designer

*Stephanie's name has been changed to protect her privacy. 

Thoughts from a reflective designer

Hi Everyone.

It's been a reflective couple of months. The recurring theme is there is so much to be done in the world and - guess what? - we have the ability to do it. Isn't that amazing? Every one of us has the ability to make the change we wish to see.

That being said, here are some musings on disability design that have been floating in my head the past month or so. For reference, "Mike" is Mike Harris, director of the Paralyzed Veteran's for America and good friend to ADAPT.

Mike harris, director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, speaking with attendees of the interdisciplinary design confrence // April 2016

Mike harris, director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, speaking with attendees of the interdisciplinary design confrence // April 2016

“Disability doesn’t discriminate.” This is Mike’s favorite phrase as a manual wheelchair user. And he’s right. Disability doesn’t care if you’re black or white, straight or gay, rich or poor. It can affect anybody at any time, but for some reason we don’t treat it that way—especially when it comes to design. We create buildings with the accessible entrance artfully hidden by a row of shrubs or found in a side alley. We create hearing aids to be as small and inconspicuous as possible as if it’s shameful to require one. We install bathroom sinks and locate the drain pipe in the center of the sink rather than to the side, even though this prevents wheelchair users from getting close enough to use it.

All of these examples come from wheelchair users speaking to student designers at an interdisciplinary design conference I organized last spring. We've identified (a few of) many problems. Now it's time to work.

- Laura, CEO

A Union of Education & Passion.

Last Sunday I had the absolute pleasure of spending time with the beautiful Eden Ericson. Eden is an outgoing, art-loving, kind-hearted sixth grader who has cerebral palsy which causes her to use a wheelchair. She is one of many people we work with to identify design problems and to create effective solutions.

The purpose of this meeting was to kick off my senior design project. Much like Sidney working last year on her senior thesis with Amanda Jurysta, I get to spend my senior year creating something beautiful for Eden. Throughout the semester, I am working in a team with two other engineering students Amanda Chamberlain and Val Coldren. I spent some time catching them up on my previous experiences working with Eden, but it also gave me the opportunity to learn new things about her and her family's experiences trying to find everyday products that she can use. For instance, it took Eden's parents a lot of trial and error to finally find a water bottle that was easy to open but wouldn't break if dropped. 

Eden also has a pink basket holding all of the necessities; iPod, water bottle, some pencils, and what she jokingly refers to as other 'junk'. The problem here is, as a preteen she told us she'd like to carry a purse instead, This is the problem space we are currently most interested in. We are currently working with Eden to explore how we might develop a solution that she can customize the look of everyday depending on her mood, outfit, etc.

My senior project teammates and I are spending Thanksgiving week reflecting on our meeting and doing some individual brainstorming. Next week, we'll reunite to compare initial sketches and see what Eden thinks of our progress.

 - Laura, CEO