The Universal Design Toolkit and the Universal Design Living Laboratory

By Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
Rosemarie with her husband, Mark (& kitty!) at home
My Story

On June 13, 1998, my husband Mark Leder and I went for a bicycle ride on a rural wooded bike trail in Granville, OH. After riding for a few minutes, Mark thought he heard a gunshot and slowed down to investigate.  As he scanned the scene he saw a large tree falling. He shouted, “Stop!” But the warning was too late. Instantly, I was crushed by a 7,000 pound tree and paralyzed from the waist down.
Coming home from the hospital in a wheelchair in July 1998 after my T12-L1, spinal cord injury, I realized how my home intensified my disability.  My husband and I knew that we had to sell our home and find something more suitable.

Designing and Building the Universal Design Living Laboratory

My husband is 6'4" tall while I am 4'1" seated in my wheelchair.  Our heights and reaches were factors in the home design so that we were both accommodated.

In September of 2004 we hired architect, Patrick Manley to draw the house plans for our new home.  In January 2005 we hired kitchen and bath designer and internationally renowned universal design specialist Mary Jo Peterson.
We hired Robert August in October 2005 to help us with branding, marketing, and contacting international and national corporations to partner with us by contributing products and services.

Mark and I bought an acre and a half lot in December of 2006. We broke ground on September 23, 2009. In addition to being accessible, universal design and green building construction principles were followed.  We received the highest levels of certification from three universal design national certification programs.

We acquired 214 contributors and had hundreds of people volunteer to help us.  Our home could not have been built without their support. Mark and I have personally funded the Universal Design Living Laboratory and served as the general contractors.
On May 18, 2012 we moved into our new home.  

Helpful Tips Prior to Your Hospital Stay

Written by Wendy Crawford, “The Rollin RN”, Patty Kunze, RN and Roberta Palmer, RN

Recently, I was in the hospital for a bladder augmentation surgery. I have a neurogenic bladder due to my injury which causes my bladder to spasm. In the past, I was on medication and was getting Botox injections at least every six months, which was effective for many years but gradually my body became resistant to the Botox.

I found myself feeling anxious, as I had not been in the hospital since my injury, which was over 32 years ago and wasn't certain what to expect. Since I am a quadriplegic with minimal use of my arms and hands, I wondered how much assistance that I would be getting while I was in the hospital. I did remember that the nurses are always extremely busy and often did not have enough time to help with the “little things”. (I’ll never forget the accumulation of snacks on my bedside table because there was no one around that time of day, to unwrap them and pass them to me!)

I decided to coordinate someone to be with me most of the time during my week’s stay. My husband was able to be there some of the time but also had to go to work so I arranged for a helper to come in off and on, as well.

My intuitions were correct and a lot of times, it was difficult to find someone to help me with basic hygiene like passing me my toothbrush, giving me sips of water, setting out my meals etc., never mind such luxuries such as showering or washing your hair etc.! They did have some wonderful students that were super helpful but they were only there certain days and times.

Aimee Hofmann – Household CEO, Mother & so Much More!

A day in October of 2006, I was at home doing laundry.  On this day, I knew something was different about me that just didn’t feel right. I was feeling weak and sick, but ignored it and took a walk across the street, to go to a store to get exact change for the laundry machine.  I’ll never forget that walk across the street, because little did I know, it would be my last walk outside.  Shortly after, I started to lose sensation in my legs and was rushed to the hospital. I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that causes paralysis.I was kept in the hospital for 2 months for tests/recovery and spent my 30th birthday there.

When I was first told that I may never walk again, I didn't want to accept it. I felt scared and angry at the world. I refused to "learn" how to function in a wheelchair because that would mean I had to accept this kind of life. This is not how I envisioned myself nor how I imagined that my life would turn out. I didn't want anyone to feel sorry for me.

Everything in our lives was going so well when my sudden onset of paralysis, hit us like a ton of bricks. After all, my husband (of seven years at that time) and I, were living the high life in the big city. We would meet friends every weekend, and were always at the best places "to be and be seen" of New York City. We had one those love stories you read in storybooks. We met, fell for each other instantly and flew back and forth to see each other for a few months. We had a whirlwind romance and were married within 6 months.

Actions Speak a Thousand Words: A Modern Version of David vs Goliath

By Katherine Magnoli
Katherine, Ms.Wheelchair Florida 2017
“I’ve never had anyone with a disability complain about accessibility to anything, you’re the first one. So, I am interested in what you have to say.” This was said by an official leader in my town, when we met to discuss accessibility to the beach. This person for his own protection shall remain anonymous. I being the advocate that I am, chose to take the high road and only show the point of the story.  
 After hearing this and the initial shock wore off, I continued to prove by telling my own personal stories, along with others in similar position, the difficulties of making it to the ocean on their own.  I also told him how powerful of an experience it is, to go to a local  tri-weekly event in a neighboring town, where people with physical disabilities can participate in adaptive sports. All of this however, seemed to have very little effect on him, until I was able to tell him the kind of person I am.
I then told him that I do not give up on getting the things I want done. Then and only then did his ears perk up like a dog who is listening for an animal they are about to hunt. He had a smile on his face from ear to ear as he said “Good! I always tell my kids that it is not enough to say you are going to do something, you have to do it.”  Shortly after I shook his hand and wheeled out the door, knowing that in just a few short hours he and other officials in my town would be honoring me for my contributions in the community. An award planned prior to our conversation.