108 ideal-LIVING.com ideal-LIVING • spring 2015
Every once in a while, life throws such a momentous curve ball that the will to survive and thrive is challenged beyond all measure. June 13th, 1998 was such a day for Rosemarie
Rossetti, bringing with it an event that irrevocably changed her
life forever. Now, nearly two decades later, the impressive accomplishments of this remarkable woman continue to unfold and are
simultaneously a testimony to her resilience and an insight into
the fascinating world of universal design.
Ohio-born Rossetti married Mark Leder in 1995. Fast track
three years later and the couple was celebrating their anniversary with a bike ride around their neighborhood when the
unimaginable struck. A three-and-half ton tree came crashing
down upon Rossetti, causing a spinal cord injury that rendered
her paralyzed from the waist down.
“Obviously it was devastating at first. My husband had
suddenly become my nurse, my lifelong dreams seemed unobtainable and my education felt like a waste of time,” recalls
Rossetti. However, with a profound determination, she gradually
began to regain the ability to carry out basic tasks, such as tying
her own shoes or getting herself dressed.
Through an arduous two-year rehabilitation program, Rossetti gained more confidence and fundamental life skills but
found herself constantly thwarted by the limitations of her
own home. “What had been my dream house was suddenly
a constant source of frustration. The simplest actions were a
challenge, from doing laundry to putting away groceries,” remembers Rossetti.
Although the couple made many modifications to try and
meet Rossetti’s new needs, they finally conceded that adding
a few rails and removing some doors were just not going to
provide the longed-for independence she sought. The couple
committed to building a house specifically designed to meet her
needs, and this is where the concept of universal design came
into their world.
Universal design is about creating all-encompassing frame-
works that can be applied to any area of life. This human-
centered premise allows for everything from education modules
to homes developed with a comprehensive ideology at the
core. This discovery led Rossetti and Leder to the International
tion from the conven-
tion, the couple then
headed to a master-
mind meeting of con-
temporary leaders in
business where they
shared their ideas.
Creating Universal Design
By Kim Henry