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.
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 recreation activities, two things needed in every community. The outcomes of these projects are design plans that can be shared and implemented anywhere.
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.”
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:
- Connections with others who are passionate about making communities more welcoming to people affected by disability.
- Knowing that your advice will directly impact design plans that will be used across the USA, and possibly throughout the world.
- Recognition for your participation and efforts for involvement in our design projects.
- 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.
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.