The Problem

There are very limited numbers of designers with disabilities in any of the design professions, including architecture, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture and urban planning. Elementary and secondary education curriculum rarely includes design skills or any exposure to these professions. The traditional recruitment methods by the design professions do not target nor accommodate high school and college students with disabilities. Neither high school guidance counselors nor vocational rehabilitation counselors advise or support disabled students into the design professions. Students and their families have little awareness of what the design professions are or what is required to succeed in them. The existing professional post-secondary programs have limited experience or information on the accommodations needed by students in design studios, in undergraduate or graduate programs. Finding work is another major hurdle for those few designers with disabilities that have completed their initial professional degree. The practitioners are not known to each other, nor available to students as mentors and role models. There are low expectations that people with disabilities can be successful designers.

This problem is part of a huge, national problem regarding the employment of people with disabilities. President Clinton, in his charge to the newly created Presidential Task Force on the Employment of People with Disabilities noted, "Our nation cannot afford to waste this vast and only partially tapped source of knowledge, skills, and talent."



Key Informants:
Designers with disabilities were the key informants. Researcher Daniel Hunter conducted telephone and email interviews with 33 individuals around the world to gain critical background information for the Action Plan. This was primarily information about their personal school and work experience as well as recommendations to improve the educational, career planning and work experience. The designers were invited to help establish an ongoing international network and possibly be mentors for design students and new professionals. Read the Research Summary.

Systems Research:
We conducted research into career counseling, school to work, leadership and employment initiatives for people with disabilities and other pertinent background to establish a context for the Action Planning. This included information on the systems that are in place to introduce young people to the design professions. The initial research was used to create the briefing materials for the meeting.


Strategic Planning Meeting

The draft of the Action Plan was primarily created during on August 23-24, 1999 at a meeting at Gallaudet, with the aid of a very experienced facilitator. Daniel Iacofano, Ph.D., of Moore, Iacofano Goltsman of Berkeley, California has successfully organized hundreds of high level strategic planning meetings throughout the US. He was the co-facilitator with Ostroff at the Adaptive Environments Center meeting supported by the NEA in 1982, that established the framework for much of the universal design educational work.

Strategic Planning Task Force Members:
The Task Force brought together people who may not have worked together before, each with extraordinary expertise that helped focus the problem and plan the initial solutions. It included design practitioners, including designers with disabilities, educators and the professional societies. Staff from the excellent projects that have pioneered career development for youth with disabilities participated, along with staff from government agencies involved in employment. One objective is that many of the existing organized career development efforts will embrace this challenge as part of their mission.