Maggie Sheffield's story helps us understand who to include in "design that's usable by all people."

And not just in Woodbridge, Virginia, but anywhere.

Maggie is 30 years old and was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) when she was 18 years old. She was at the beach on a family trip, just prior to the start of her undergraduate college program, when she felt overall weakness in her arms and legs that progressively worsened.

Within two weeks Maggie went from completely functional to completely debilitated in a hospital bed. Maggie was able to make a full recovery from the acute exacerbation of symptoms associated with this rare neurological disorder, which took around 13 months.

Maggie’s experience with GBS inspired her to pursue a career as an occupational therapist, as she understands the impact short term disability has on leisure activities, functional mobility within the home and community, and participating in meaningful life activities.

Location: Woodbridge, Virginia, United States


Watch the interview:

Notable quotes from the interview:

I was not able to do any of my previous recreational pursuits…wasn’t able to ride my horse, wasn’t able to do the extent of the outdoor activities that I usually did, but I’m interested in enough things that it wasn’t burdensome. I missed riding my horse, most of all, but it wasn’t as much of a hindrance as it could have been, just because I’m fortunate that I’m interested in a lot of things.

You want people in your life that admire more about you than one set of characteristics. You want to be appreciated on more levels than that. Right now, I have a really good compliment of friends who admire me for more than one set of who I am, which is cool. That’s really cool.

Yeah, well when you are experiencing something, yes things may be harder, but that’s you. You are. You become what you’re doing and there was that constant automatic assumption of, “Man, how can you enjoy anything?” I felt like everyone was feeling that for me, like how can you enjoy everything, anything? I was like, “I can enjoy a lot of things, thank you very much.

Big picture: Over a week, I went from fully functioning, just graduated from high school, 18-year old, fit, active… to completely not functioning on a normal level. Completely debilitated, in a hospital bed.