By Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
Designing and building the Universal Design Living Laboratory has been a fulfilling labor of love that began with a terrible accident nearly 17 years ago. On June 13, 1998, my husband, Mark Leder, and I went for a bicycle ride on a rural wooded trail in Granville, OH. After riding for a few minutes, Mark thought he heard a gunshot and slowed down to investigate. As he scanned the scene he saw a large tree falling. He shouted, “Stop!” But the warning was too late. Instantly, I was crushed by a 3-½ ton tree and paralyzed from the waist down.
Coming home from the hospital in a manual wheelchair after my spinal cord injury, I realized how my two-story home intensified my disability. There were a myriad of things I was unable to do: I couldn’t come and go out of any door independently, roll my chair on the carpet, or fit through bathroom doorways. I couldn’t reach the clothes in my closet, nor glasses and dishes in the kitchen. I couldn’t use the oven or microwave, get food out of the freezer, nor access food in the pantry. I couldn’t take a shower or bath independently, do the laundry, get to the second floor or basement, and I couldn’t access any of the landscape. My husband and I knew that we had to sell our home and find something more suitable.
In September of 2004, we hired architect Patrick Manley to draw plans for our new home in Columbus, Ohio. A few months later, Mark and I were encouraged by our mastermind group to make our house a national demonstration home and garden, acquire corporate sponsors, and open it for tours to the public. Sponsors would help us by contributing products and services in order to make construction feasible. We wanted to share our home for others to see so they could borrow a few good ideas.
We hired S. Robert August, a Denver-based consultant, in October 2005 to help us with branding, marketing, and contacting international and national corporations to partner with us by contributing products and services. He named our home the Universal Design Living Laboratory.
Nearly 220 companies and individuals contributed products and services to the home. Mark and I have personally funded the UDLL and served as the general contractors, with Mark doing much of the work himself. On May 18, 2012 we moved into “the lab,” our new home. Take a look below at all the great features this home has to offer.