“Our purpose is to instigate a revolutionary shift, one where we reject barriers and segregation and choose instead to imagine and build custom adaptations; where we share designs and stories; and where we respond to difference and disability, not with fear or neglect, but with solidarity and love.”
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.
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, a program now in its 30th year. 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions