Adaptive Design Association advances healthcare, education, and social well-being by engaging everyone—novice to expert—in building custom adaptations, discovering untapped potential, and nurturing communities that thrive with diversity.
Adaptive Design Association envisions a day when adaptive design centers are operating in communities, schools, and organizations everywhere; and when all people with disabilities are fully educated, employed, and valued, in every family, society, and country.
Adaptive Design Associates (ADA) was established as an independent non-profit in 2001. Based in Manhattan, New York, ADA has been transforming the lives of disabled individuals by inventing and producing innovative, low-cost adaptive design solutions for over twenty years.
Alex Truesdell, Founder, and Director Emeritus began creating adaptive solutions at Perkins School for the Blind when she was a teacher for children with multiple disabilities. Alex invented and produced adaptive tools by using affordable materials such as cardboard and rolled towels. Through years of practice, Alex transformed ideas and frustrations into highly customized and successful solutions. In 2015 The MacArthur Foundation recognized ADA's innovative approach to solving critical global problems by awarding Alex with a MacArthur Fellowship.
Today, under the leadership of Executive Director Jennifer Hercman, Adaptive Design Associates has grown its programmatic scope to strengthen adaptive solutions for individuals with physical disabilities, producing three-dimensional communication learning cards for the visually impaired, and launching an innovative work program for students with Autism in the New York Public School system.
Alex Truesdell Kellogg Fellowship
Women Care DPCA launching
Alternatives To Incarceration program &
Antoinette LaSorsa joins the team
Tangible cue research with Ellen Trief.
Replication with Kit Frank in Ibarra, Ecuador
Among the Giants documentary video by Cory Tomascoff
Department of Education District 75 opens 7 Adaptive Design workshops
Incorporation as “Adaptive Design Association.Inc” a 501c3 not-for profit organization, John Embree, Founding Chair
First support from the New York Community Trust.
Well Met Philanthropy seed funding
OT/PT supervisors secured DOE funding for weekly professional development courses
PS 138 Fabricating Individual Technical Team partnership (FITT)
Crain’s New York Business feature in What Makes New York NY
First American Printing House order for 500 sets of Tangible Symbol Cues (13,500 cues).
Ford Foundation: Made-to-Learn internship (Adults with autism)
New York Times: Using Cardboard to Bring Disabled Children Out of the Exile of Wrong Furniture.
Replication at FUNDAL in Guatemala
New York Community Trust supports
Managed Care research grant.
Feature in What Can a Body Do?: How We Meet the Built World
By: Sara Hendren
Community Partnerships Coordinator
Senior Adaptive Designer & Fabricator
Adaptive Designer & Fabricator
Chair & Interim Treasurer
Frequently Asked Questions
Adaptive Design Association
is a 501c3 organization
The New York State Office of the Attorney General provides access to the annual filing for charitable organizations. Adaptive Design Association is committed to financial transparency. For additional information please do not hesitate to connect using firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-904-1200.
About the Founder
In 1981, Alex Truesdell, met two people that forever inspired her to better the lives of others.
In that year, Alex Truesdell, an early childhood teacher at the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, met Erin, an infant with severe multiple disabilities. A few months later, Alex’s aunt lost the use of her fingers and thumbs following a spinal cord injury. “I had never heard of adaptive technology, but suddenly found myself waking up in the night thinking of adaptations. I rolled towels into bolsters, carved notches in toys, and threaded straps through seat backs.” With the help of her Uncle Frank, a skilled builder, Alex learned to work with all kinds of materials, and together, they transformed ideas and frustrations into highly customized solutions for Erin and her Aunt Lynn.
Over the next few years, Alex set up a small workshop in her basement and made many more adaptations for children on her caseload. Alex was eventually hired full-time by the Perkins School to start the Assistive Device Center. In 1998, Alex relocated to New York City with the goal of replicating the practice and philosophy of adaptive design, and adding an internship program for women re-entering the workforce through Alternatives To Incarceration. Through a great stroke of luck, Alex met Antoinette LaSorsa and they developed a pilot called “Creative Constructions.” In 2001 they established the Adaptive Design Association as an independent nonprofit. In 2015 The MacArthur Foundation recognized Alex's innovative approach to solving a critical global problem and awarded her the MacArthur Fellowship.