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Educational Intensive - Spring 2020

Three adults are building with cardboard. One is fitting two pieces together, using slots.  A woman in a red top is bending over her project and a third woman in blue is using a hot glue gun.  Other work space and a stack of tri-wall cardboard are behind them.

Offered only three times a year, our 30-hour, week-long educational intensive is an opportunity for immersive exposure to numerous aspects of adaptive design: three days of cardboard carpentry, one day of positioning, and one day of switches/electronics. 

It's a great opportunity for those who live/work too far away to communte to New York City to attend multiple courses.


If you can't spare five days, no problem.  Attend any or all of the courses. 

Spring dates:  March 16-20, 2020

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Registration is open

  • What does the Adaptive Design Association do?
    The Adaptive Design Association (ADA) develops and builds customized adaptive equipment for children and adults with disabilities, using readily available and affordable materials, so that people can participate fully at home, at school, and at work. Every piece of equipment made is also a learning tool for our interns, volunteers and course participants.
  • Terminology: What do all those terms mean? Adaptive equipment? Adaptive devices? Assistive devices? Assistive technology?
    Adaptations, adaptive equipment, assistive devices, and related terms are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences in meaning. If you have a condition that interferes with your doing tasks in the usual way, adaptive equipmentmay help you out. Equipment (devices) can assist with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, grooming, eating and so on), schooling, work, recreation, and more. Some adaptive devices are products you can buy from stores, catalogs, or websites. You may make some yourself, or turn to an organization like Adaptive Design to make some for you. Adaptations is an even broader term that includes equipment, but can also mean different ways of doing things that don't necessarily involve a device, such as lying down when you're putting on socks and shoes, if you have trouble with balance. Federal law defines an assistive technology device as: "Any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children* with disabilities." So the term assistive technology includes all adaptive equipment, from the simplest (using the eraser end of a pencil to turn the pages of a book) to the most complex (voice-controlled robots). Commonly, however, people use assistive technology, or AT, to refer to devices toward the high-tech end of the spectrum. ----------------------------------------------------- *This definition comes from education law; thus the reference to "children," but assistive technology is used by people of any age.
  • What is adaptive design?
    As practiced at ADA, Adaptive Design has three components: Think creatively: Using your imagination to solve problems. Looking at a problem from several angles, identifying its different facets, and seeing the parts in correct relation to one another. Then generating multiple ideas for how to deal with each one, figuring out which sub-solutions fit well together to form a solution to the whole problem. If this sounds like hard work -- it is. It's also a LOT of fun! Plan collaboratively: Getting people with diverse perspectives and expectations to agree on how wide the armrest of a chair should be isn't always easy, but consensus is key. Shared problem-solving--properly managed--nearly always results in better solutions. Even more important, when the whole team is involved, everyone will feel that they are part of the solution. Fostering this sense of ownership is the best way to ensure that an adaptation will be fully accepted and used. Build economically: We prefer to build equipment with low-cost tools and building materials that are locally available and not harmful to our environment. We build economically because: it is wasteful not to it is thought-provoking and fun it makes justification of funding proposals easier
  • What is the process for arranging for equipment to be made for a school?
    Please fill out our Let's Get Started form. It's a great idea to speak with the student who will use the equipment and with others in that student's team: families, therapists, teachers, etc. Find out what everyone thinks about the adaptive equipment you envision. Gather ideas and suggestions. Maybe do a little research to see if there's already a product "out there" that meets the need you're seeing. You'll be better able to describe what you want and how it will help the student. After you complete the form, we will reach out and give you an estimate of when we expect to be able to start working on your project. We'll contact you to arrange a "fitting." This is when we'll meet with you, the student, and whatever other members of the team can be assembled. We'll talk about needs and goals, assets and barriers, and possible designs. Then, back in our workshop, we'll assemble the item agreed-upon by the team. Then we arrange an "interim fitting" in which the student tries out the adaptation and the team decides whether size, shape, features, etc. are just what is wanted. We return to the workshop, make any changes decided on during the interim fitting, then edge it, prime it, and paint it the student's chosen color(s). Then we polyurethane the item to protect it, and add belts, mats and other accessories. Then we contact you to arrange a time for delivery.
  • What is the cost to have something custom made by Adaptive Design for use at home?
    Our team works diligently to secure funding to ensure equipment will not be cost prohibitive to our families. Our priority is to build relationships with families so clients will always feel comfortable reaching out for modifications or for other needs as clients grow and develop. To ensure that others will continue to benefit from the work that we do, we ask families to help by: 1. Sharing your experience: Write a testimonial about your experience 2. Contributing on our donation page on our website 3. Spreading the word: Share our service with other families and therapists
  • How do I arrange for someone from Adaptive Design Association to speak at an event?
    Community outreach and building of networks is essential to the promotion to Adaptive Design’s vision and mission. To invite someone from Adaptive Design to speak at your event, please get in touch with us by phone at 212-904-1200 or by email at
  • I am thinking of starting my own initiative. Can you help?
    A facet of Adaptive Design Association's mission is to promote the spread of our approach. Many different models can be effective. We can help you with your initiative: by providing resources on our website, such as a gallery of types of adaptations, and ways to connect with those using various program models. by providing training to you and your staff, via a variety of professional development opportunities for you and your staff or through extended apprenticeships through consultative services tailored to your organization's needs (Get in touch with us to find out more.).
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