Hi! We’re Scott & Sarah Pruett, founders of The Universal Design Project. We started this organization because we see a huge need for collaboration between designers and people who really understand disability.
We understand firsthand how universal design can improve people’s involvement in their communities. Starting with the obvious, Scott uses a wheelchair. He broke his neck in a downhill skiing accident nearly 20 years ago, which caused irreversible damage to his spinal cord at the C6 level, resulting in partial paralysis.
We met while Sarah was in graduate school. We married, Sarah became a registered & licensed occupational therapist, and she worked in a rehabilitation hospital while Scott attended grad school. We moved to Colorado to work with an organization that provides adaptive outdoor recreation while Scott finished his master’s.
We eventually moved to Virginia to start a universal design consulting business. Sarah focused on home design and modification, and Scott focused on community recreation. Our experiences and many friendships (from volunteer leadership roles with several other organizations that serve individuals and families with disabilities) made the need for universal design impossible to ignore. This also made us question why there’s so little of it.
The demand for [paid] universal design consulting from health professionals (e.g., occupational therapists) is minimal, so after four years, we dissolved the consulting business and restructured as a nonprofit organization. The Universal Design Project was born. We’re currently raising money to build a team of design professionals and health professionals to show what can be done when designers and people who understand disability work together.
No tiptoeing around disability.
Universal design is a difficult sell for people who don’t identify with having a disability, but UD wouldn’t exist if disability didn’t exist.
The words we use matter.
Universal design isn’t the same thing as ADA compliance or accessibility modifications. “Universal design” must truly be for “all people.”
Better to design new than to redesign.
Universal design is a process of designing without barriers. It’s not a fix-it activity. Compromises are often made when redesigning. Start fresh.
Eliminate bias, eliminate exclusion.
We see the world through our eyes, not someone else’s. Universal design necessitates working with people who see things differently.
Listening leads to understanding.
Universal design isn’t one-size-fits all. It’s about accommodating a range of ways people do things. Listen to people. Don’t depend on personas.
Doing universal design well is costly.
Universal design needs to be a collaborative process. It takes a lot more effort than design done by a single individual. This costs time and money.