Design Advisor Program Details

Thanks for your interest in our Design Advisor Program! This is a volunteer opportunity for people who have experience with disability to provide feedback about projects in development to help ensure that outcomes are truly “usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible,” in accordance with the definition of universal design.

Below you’ll find a brief overview of what to expect. You will need to fill out our Volunteer Application and sign our Design Advisor Agreement (which will be shared after your application is reviewed) to join this program.

Current status: This is a new program. We’re still working through the specifics of how it’ll work, but we need your help to test a few different approaches we’re taking for advisor feedback. Our design work hasn’t started yet, as we’re still short on funding. We’re hoping to start design projects later in 2018.

Who are Design Advisors?

Design Advisors are individuals who are passionate about functional design issues in the home and the community. They have a personal interest in helping to improve the way things are designed. All of our Design Advisors either have a disability themselves or have provided care for those who experience disability.

Because disability is experienced in many different ways, we are not setting a limit on the number of Design Advisors we accept into this program. We understand that everyone has different perspectives about disability and different experiences with how it affects everyday life, which is exactly why we need a diverse cohort of Design Advisors.

What does a Design Advisor do?

Design Advisors give advice about design projects that are in development by our organization. Our current areas of focus are residential homes and community activities. The outcomes of these projects are design plans that can be shared and implemented anywhere.

Click here to learn more about our Design-Share-Support model.

The following image shows our universal design process. The most important place in this process for our Design Advisors to be involved is the review step (#5), in which everything that is in development will be presented for you to say “yes, that works for me!” or “no, that won’t work for me.”

A flow chart of the Universal Design Process: define, research, brainstorm, develop, review, either pivot or revise or finalize, then support.

Other opportunities for participation will be in Research (step #2) and Brainstorming (step #3). You may have already taken our survey, which is part of our research.

How do Design Advisors participate?

We’re still figuring this part out. As of right now it will be 100% online. We tested Workplace by Facebook with a small group of participants last year, but it wasn’t a good fit for the program. We’ll most likely be using Basecamp or a Google Group. As long as you have regular access to email, you can participate. We’ll definitely be testing the effectiveness of group conversation vs. online surveys, and probably a combination of both.

What are the benefits of being a Design Advisor?

We think the most notable benefits are:

  1. Connections with others who are passionate about making communities more welcoming to people affected by disability.
  2. Knowing that your advice will directly impact design plans that will be used across the USA, and possibly throughout the world.
  3. Recognition for your participation and efforts for involvement in our design projects.
  4. First access* to our design plans for use in your own community.

*Access to design plans will not be free to everyone unless we have significant funding from another source; details are still being worked out about this benefit for our Design Advisors.

What is required for participation?

This opportunity requires regular access to the internet and an active email address. You will need your own personal computer, smartphone, or tablet. We cannot provide any of this for you.

What can you expect from us?

Availability: Design Advisors can expect interaction with The Universal Design Project program staff and design team(s) on one or more projects at the same time. We will do our best to respond to all feedback and provide frequent status updates. We are working on many things behind the scenes, but you will have easy access to us as needed.

Confidentiality: The Universal Design Project will not disclose your personal information to outside parties without your permission. Your information will be only be shared with our staff, interns, and design team(s), who are also bound by confidentially agreements.

Respect: We’ll treat you the way we’d want to be treated.

What do we expect from you?

Confidentiality: You will be expected to follow confidentiality guidelines within the Design Advisor Agreement, primarily meaning that you will not discuss details of specific projects we are working on with anyone outside the program. You can share that you are a Design Advisor for The Universal Design Project, but nothing beyond that without our permission. Things discussed within the group must stay within the group. Once design projects are finalized and plans are published, you are welcome and encouraged to share about your participation.

Good Attitude: We value your experiences and want you to be open and willing to hear other people’s experiences as well. Each of us have different life situations and we encourage you to think beyond that which is only applicable to your life, as universal design, by definition, is usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible.

Patience: This is a new program and we are still working out all the details. The level of collaboration that we’re striving for is not common in design processes. Until we figure out the most effective ways to make this work, we may have to try different things. Please be patient with us.

Honesty: Your perspective is so important. Please be honest and real with us. We know disability is messy. That’s okay. We also welcome any feedback if you think we can do something differently or better.

Participation: Your advice and feedback is critical to the success of our design projects, so when we have something that we’re looking for input about, please participate. We reserve the right to remove you from this program if you do not participate and have not communicated with us as to why you have become inactive.

Other FAQ

What if I have feedback or questions?
Just email us at hello@universaldesign.org or send us a note over Facebook Messenger (m.me/theUDproject) and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
I know someone who would be a great Design Advisor. How can I get them into the program?
Encourage them to fill out our application (universaldesign.org/volunteer). Keep in mind that we are currently only looking for individuals who have personal experience with disability.
How much time should I devote to the program?
Participate as often or as little as you’d like, whenever it’s convenient for you, but please participate! Most of our communication is asynchronous, meaning that we don’t require anything at a particular time. If we have deadlines to meet, we’ll let you know.
What if I am unable to participate for a period of time, but still want to be involved?
Just let us know! Send us an email at hello@universaldesign.org or send us a note over Facebook Messenger (m.me/theUDproject) and explain your situation. We want you to be involved even if you may need to take a hiatus due to an illness, unforeseen situation, or need for an extended break.
What kind of advice are you looking for?
We will give you specific instructions on the type of advice and feedback we need, but we want it to come from your perspective based on your personal and/or professional experience, not something you read or heard somewhere else. Most of the feedback will include specific design features that are helpful for performing tasks in different areas of the home or community. We are fully aware that you may not have answers for everything, but we believe that with a collaborative approach we can work together to find solutions. We are also aware that some solutions may require new ideas or ways of doing things, and we’re open to developing techniques, features, or ideas that do not exist yet.
What types of things will I be reviewing?
  • Homes (single family/multi-family) in a variety of price ranges and styles.
  • Various community activities, about details/support to help people with disabilities participate alongside peers. We’re focused on inclusive opportunities versus disability-specific programs.
  • There may also be opportunity to provide input for training/support materials, product suggestions, and marketing.
How do I leave the program?
We’d be sad to see you go, but we understand and respect that you may need to leave for a variety of reasons. We ask you send us a note at hello@universaldesign.org and we can remove you from a specific project or from all communications sent out to Design Advisors.
Can we meet in person?
This isn’t out of the question, but at this time we do not have plans for a group meet up. It could happen in the future, but we are focused on funding to begin our projects first. That said, if you’re passing through the Shenandoah Valley sometime, let us know!
Can you help me with my personal situation?
The Design Advisor program is not for personal support. We have a place for some side conversation, but if you need help, we encourage you to post in the Universal Design Facebook Group or find assistance elsewhere.

Thank you so much for your desire to be a part of this program! We are looking forward to working with you more in the future! If you haven’t applied yet, click here for our Volunteer Application.