Construction Disruption

Rosemarie Rossetti – Champion of Universal Design

Episode Summary

Building for energy efficiency and environmental friendliness is great, but if homes, offices, and other buildings aren’t universally accessible, they aren’t fulfilling their purpose. Universal Design enables anyone to fully explore, utilize, and enjoy their surroundings regardless of age or ability.

Episode Notes

Our guest is Rosemarie Rossetti, an expert of Universal Design, aging in place, and accessible design. Rosemarie was disabled in an accident and used that as an opportunity to become a leading voice for the importance of easily accessible design in residential and commercial applications. Now a motivational speaker, Rosemarie lives in the Universal Design Living Laboratory, a demonstration home built for ease of access and usability. 

Check out Rosemarie’s website at and the Universal Design Living Laboratory at

Episodes are sponsored and produced by Isaiah industries, a manufacturer of specialty metal roofing systems and other building materials. Learn more at

Episode Transcription

Rosemarie Rossetti [00:00:00] We have to have states and cities that are bold enough, like the ones that are out there now that say you cannot build a new home unless you have at least one entrance that's visitable for a person with a wheelchair or scooter, and you must have at least a half bath on the first floor or you're not building a new home in our city. 


Todd Miller [00:00:31] Welcome to the Construction Disruption podcast, where our goal is to uncover the future of building and remodeling. Join us as we explore an industry that is constantly changing with new products, new designs, new practices, and new technologies, from builders to remodelers to executives, as well as those with outside perspectives. Each episode of Construction Disruption is going to meet with forward thinkers, as well as those in the know from our construction industry, in some cases to share their unique insights. Construction Disruption was created, and it is sponsored by Isaiah Industries, manufacturer of specialty metal roofing systems and other building materials. I'm Todd Miller of Isaiah Industries and my co-host is Seth Heckaman, our sales manager. Our producer here, behind the scenes, is Ryan Bell. And we also have Ethan Young helping here behind the scenes as well. 


Seth Heckaman [00:01:31] So thanks so much, Todd. Looking forward to this episode with Rosemarie. Before we get started, I wanted to do something a little bit different. Normally you ask me a question, wanted to kick it back to you. So, you know, really the goal of this podcast is to, you know, create these conversations and learn more about how changes occur, what the impact of those changes are, how we can be more forward-thinking and innovative. And, you know, recognize that so often those changes that truly do disrupt, they come a little bit out of the blue sometimes and turn the industry on their, on its head. And for those of us firmly entrenched in the industry, we want to be doing the disrupting versus someone else with new eyes and fresh perspective disrupting us. But I'm curious, you know, we're now eight or nine episodes in wherever we are, and we've been thinking a lot about this for a while now. What are some of your hunches? What are you? What do you think are the opportunities for disruption, innovation? Where do you see those occurring here in the months and years ahead? 


Todd Miller [00:02:35] Goodness, good question. You know, I think a lot of what I keep, keep sensing and keep seeming to come up is the idea of simplicity. I really think that things are going to get simpler and a lot of the disruptions, a lot of the developments, a lot of the advancements are going to be to make things simpler. I mean, make things easier to produce, make things perhaps easier to produce, maybe with simpler raw materials. I mean, as we've seen supply chain disruptions this year, I think that has everyone's saying, well, does my supply chain really have to be as complicated as it's been? Yes, things will probably get back to quote-unquote normal at some point. But does it have to really be normal as it was before? I think things are going to get simpler to ship. I mean, we've seen all the problems with shipping and containers, and domestically we've seen the shortages of truck drivers and how that's had an impact. So I think everyone's, a lot of those advancements a lot of those disruptions are going to be people figuring out how to package things better or how to be able to ship them more with greater ease and greater simplicity. Certainly how to install products with greater simplicity. I mean, you know, OK, so we know there's a labor shortage out there in construction. Well, can we make products that perhaps don't require the skill level to install that they used to require? You and I both know one of our favorite production managers from a contractor we know always talks about, you know, I got to be able to have products that I can take the Subway Sandwich Artist and put them on a roof and get him to start installing products in a quality manner. So how can that get simpler? I think even operationally, so we think about energy efficiency, we think about sustainability, we think about maintenance on products. I think all of that, the disruptions are going to become from ways to make those things simpler. Ways to make them require less maintenance. Ways to make them require less energy. Ways to make them require less operational effort. So I guess that's kind of what I'm sensing. Does that resonate with anything that you've been hearing at all also? I'm just curious. 


Seth Heckaman [00:05:00] Oh, absolutely. It's, I think now it's ever more present than ever, just with the skilled labor side especially doing more with less, faster installing, simpler installing. But, you know, from a little bit different context of disruption, but what the pandemic has brought. Can we simplify things that are harder to disrupt or fewer things that could go wrong or disrupt and in packaging or, you know, any area of our production? We were in a meeting earlier this week and they were three or four ancillary packaging components that we're having trouble getting right now, none of its roofing product, but it's getting roofing product out the door. So can we eliminate those, all of those complexities and streamline it as much as possible? I think we're going to have to moving forward because it seems like the world is just getting disrupted at a more and more frequent rate. Absolutely. 


Todd Miller [00:05:57] And it's interesting because in my life, I've generally seen things get more complex, more complicated as advancements have come. So believe me, for my aging mind and my shrinking brain cells, it's refreshing to think that gee whiz, maybe things will get a little bit simpler, a little bit easier, and that's where our advancements will be. So I think we can only hope they'll be good stuff. So thank you again for joining us today for Construction Disruption. Today our guest is Dr. Rosemarie Rossetti. Rosemarie knows disruption, unfortunately in a pretty painful way. But on June 13th, 1998, the lives of Rosemarie and her husband Mark were forever transformed, really. They were out riding their bikes on a trail in Granville, Ohio, when a 7000-pound tree crashed down on Rosemarie, causing a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Now, prior to that tragic event, Dr. Rossetti was a professor in agriculture education at the Ohio State University, which I think is pretty interesting, too, because you were definitely on the front edge of things. When I think of agriculture professors at OSU say, you know, back in the 80s, I think of guys probably with horn-rimmed glasses and short haircuts and that type of thing. So I think that that's really cool what you were doing before then as well. Now you may all may be wondering, you know, what does this all have to do with construction? But imagine the changes in Rosemarie and Mark's lives as she adapted. Living from a wheelchair, suddenly, undoubtedly things that she had always taken for granted as working in their home and their living space no longer worked, and out of that, she has found strength to help others and to also rise above misfortune and to adapt to change and new circumstances. Rosemarie is a world-known speaker on the topics we're going to be talking about today, and she has truly taken this tragedy in her life, but turned it into something where she has built good things for other people and helped them to learn and to aspire to better things. So a big part of all of that change again was becoming a world-renowned expert in the subject of universal design. And when I first met Rosemarie probably ten, twelve years ago, I had no clue what this term universal design meant. It'll be interesting. Maybe you can share with us whether maybe I, maybe it was with good reason I did know what it meant. Maybe it hadn't really been used much. But universal design is the design and composition, creation of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by everyone, all people, regardless of age, size, ability, or disability. And it is that focus of Rosemarie's on changing construction and design to be really universally usable, accessible and comfortable that brings her here to speak to us today. So Rosemarie, welcome. Really a pleasure to have you here on Construction Disruption. I thank you very much for joining us. Before we get too far into things, I've kind of given the set up of what happened. If you want to add anything to that, that'd be great. But I'm kind of curious if you can share some stories with us when you first returned to your home after the accident and you know some of the therapy and rehabilitation you had to go through. And you know, you realize that that home that you probably loved and had served you well before the accident, no longer served you. I'm just curious to hear what that was like and some of the things you ran into. 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:10:08] Well, thank you, Todd. The opportunity to come home from the hospital in a wheelchair for the first time presented obstacles. We had steps at the front door, steps through the garage, every entrance had steps. So to get me into the home as a visitor to the home, I was still an inpatient at Ohio State University and the rehabilitation hospital. But they allowed me to come home on a field trip to see what it would be like. What a rude awakening. My husband Mark, who's very tall. He's six foot four. I am four foot two in a wheelchair, so he was able to pick me up in the wheelchair and roll me into the house through the front door over the steps. So that was one way to get in and we knew that was not going to be the solution for a permanent residence. But so here I am for the first time in this wheelchair from the hospital on the hardwood foyer floor. And then it transitions into carpet. So I took the wheelchair rims and I started to roll into the house on the carpet and I didn't have the strength to do that. The carpet was so thick, the padding was so thick that I couldn't even get into the house, into the great room because of the carpeting. So Mark came to my aid again and pushed me across into the kitchen where there was a vinyl flooring. So then I could roll around a little in the kitchen and I thought, Well, let me get a glass and get a drink of water. Well, there was the first realization that all the cabinets are too high, the countertops are too high and I can't reach the faucet. So Mark had to get a glass, fill it with water, and give it to me. And Todd, that was when the depression really set in. There is nothing I can do independently anymore in my house, in my current condition. I had a two-story home, so that was out of reach because of the steps. I had a publishing company that was housed in the basement. That had to be dissolved and all income from the publishing of the book. The doors were too narrow in many of the bathrooms. The shower was very unmanageable in that it was small and had a large lip and a sliding door. Furniture had to be moved out of the house and a hospital bed brought into the bedroom. So I'm painting a picture of the frustration that I was experiencing on that first field trip, and it didn't get any better when I finally came home. It just intensified my disability. The environment intensified what I was going through. It was bad enough that I'm paralyzed, but now not able to function in my own home independently. 


Todd Miller [00:13:02] Wow. Yeah, that yeah, you've painted quite the picture there for us, so in that case, you know, the strategy became the impetus. I mean, this was going to force change. It became very obvious to you even on that visit to your home that things had to change. Well, you and I first got to know each other about 10 years ago when you were designing and building your new home, which is known as the Universal Design Living Laboratory, or a lot of us use UDLL to shorten it. And I believe your website is [It's] dot com. Dot com. OK? I'm curious. I'll go back to the question I kind of touched on earlier. Do you know anything about the origination of the universal living or universal design term? Was that in existence when you started designing your home? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:13:55] It was in existence in the mid-1980s, so this was earlier than the Americans with Disabilities Act that was in 1990. It was coined by a man named Ron Mace. He was an architect, and he was on the faculty at North Carolina State University. The interesting part about Ron Mace is as a child, he had polio, so he used a wheelchair for mobility. So the idea of creating architecture and creating products, creating environments for all people, not with specialized design, but thinking about some principles that would make the products and the spaces usable and adaptable for people of all abilities, regardless of a disability. So in the early 80s, it became a lot of conversation with other architects that he brought together to come up with a definition and the seven principles of universal design. 


Todd Miller [00:14:57] Wow, that's interesting. And again, to think, you know, 10 years ago, I hadn't really heard the term, and I suspect that we have lots of listeners out there who have never, never heard it, even at this point. So, you know, you, you designed and built your home again,, and there's some great tours and information there on the home and information on some of the products you used. But it was designed specifically to serve folks, regardless of their needs. Can you just maybe tell us a few of the new products or design ideas that were put to use in your home? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:15:36] Well, our new home is absolutely a joy to experience. We're very privileged to live here. So you know, the design, of course, has us no steps at any of the entrances so we can just roll right in and the thresholds are no taller than a half-inch. All the doors are 36 inches wide, so as we compare the entrance of the old home to the new home, it's drastically different and there is no carpet. It's all hardwood flooring as well as ceramic tile. So I can get around easily on hard surfaces. And then when you look at the kitchen cabinets and the kitchen countertops, they're arranged differently so I can reach at least the lowest shelf in the kitchen cabinets, the countertops are of various heights throughout the kitchen for people of all heights and all abilities. We have toe kicks, which is a space on the, under the cabinets, in the kitchen, in the bathroom so I can wheel up and there's space for the rest of my wheelchair and my feet. And so we've got some really nice cabinets that allow me full access. Countertops have an appropriate height and some wonderful appliances that really make life easier so that I can reach the shelves and the side-by-side refrigerator when I do laundry. There's a front-loading door on the washer and dryer and the whole washer and dryer unit is on pedestals, making it the right height. When it's time to put in the detergent, I can reach the dispensers from a seated position. All of the plumbing hardware has lever handles as well, as well as the door hardware making that easier. So there's a lot of innovation out there. A lot of creativity that's now hit the market by storm, not only in residential, but you'll start seeing it in hospitality and hotels and rental spaces for the rental market. 


Todd Miller [00:17:41] Very interesting, I know, and this is completely off-script here, but I remember watching Matt Roloff and Little People Big World and he had started a business to bring products to the hospitality industry that would, you know, serve some of these needs also. And I thought how neat that was, I had the opportunity to speak with Matt actually a few weeks ago and very, very, really nice man. It was neat, neat talking to him. So. You talked about some of the things you did to make your home more sustainable. But or, excuse me, more universal design, but you also did things to make your home more sustainable and more beautiful. And I know that it's been several years since I've been over to see the home. In fact, it wasn't quite completed all the way when I was there. I think there was some landscaping going in that day, if I remember, right. But you know, you'd also done some things that we worked together on, such as integrated solar, and we did a custom colored roof and the home just to paint everyone a picture is just impeccably designed with a beautiful eye and color coordination, and has sort of a Frank Lloyd Wright look and feel to it. And just a real joy. But what were some other areas beyond just universal design that you wanted to try to accomplish with your new home? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:19:09] Well, we've been describing universal design, looking at the ability for people of all ages and all abilities. And you brought up the point of sustainability. Here's my point on that. How can a home be sustainable if it's not accessible? And I brought that to the attention of the U.S. Green Building Council. At the time we were in construction, we were applying for LEED certification and there was no points for an accessibility or any universal design component in our home. So I argued the case and won the case, and they changed the rating system and added points for accessibility, visibility, universal design because we realized that if a home is to be sustainable, it has to be usable by the occupants. So why create a home that's going to create problems later? Should there be a temporary illness or disability where they can't get into the house, they can't get into the bathroom, they can't take a shower, and then you're having to tear the house apart to remodel it. So it makes more sense to look at sustainability from maybe a stool perspective where we have we have the green side, which you always think about the energy efficiency and how less costly it is and how more environmentally friendly it is. Well, now let's look at another part, and we call this social sustainability. And so that might be a new term for your listeners and viewers today is to not only look at green from a sustainability of energy efficiency and environmental efficiency and friendliness, but looking at the social sustainability. The ability to sell that property and transfer it to another family who has totally different needs or a family that wants to stay there as they're aging in place. 


Todd Miller [00:21:06] Wow. You know, and I congratulate you because from everything I've heard, it's not easy to change things with USGBC. So that's that's quite accomplished. That's an accomplishment. That's great. 


Seth Heckaman [00:21:18] I'm curious, you're going through that LEED process because we keep hearing that a lot of those the LEED kind of guidelines and metrics are going to be more and more just incorporated into the overall building code as new editions come out and where it's not just going for LEED certification, it's going to be required of all construction. So curious your feedback going through that process and trying to hit that high bar and what has that impacted? Or you see the effects, positive effects of that now living in the home 10 years later? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:21:49] Yes, we did receive a silver certification for LEED. We also went for the U.S. in terms of NAHB and the National Green Building Standard program. We got a gold rating there, so there were two certifications on the green side. But then we went to the universal design certification and we had three of those, the top-rated certification programs, the top level on all three of them. And here's what the future is going to be. It's going to be about building codes requiring some of these accessibility and universal design features. I think it's going to take that type of approach for the construction industry to take note. Thinking about, is this a stick approach where you beat someone with a stick, forcing them to make a change? Or is it a carrot approach where you get rebates that go to the consumer or go to the builder? When you look at what changed the industry of construction for water efficiency and heat efficiency and Energy Star, where did all that come from? It wasn't just, oh, it's a good thing to do and the market is looking for this. That's not pushing universal design any faster. We have to have a stick approach. We have to have legislation. We have to have states and cities that are bold enough, like the ones that are out there now, that say you cannot build a new home unless you have at least one entrance that's visitable for a person with a wheelchair or scooter, and you must have at least a half bath on the first floor or you're not building a new home in our city and looking beyond that. What other ideas could be implemented so that this goes faster and farther? 


Seth Heckaman [00:23:42] Very interesting. And I think for listeners who don't know, we're seeing this ADA compliance, you know, infiltrate industries where we never would have thought it would previously, let alone construction where it makes a whole lot of sense. You know, we're Ryan is going through the process of looking over our websites, which are now being held to ADA standards and Americans with Disabilities Act and what that means. So it is, as it should, infiltrating all sectors of business and society, and it's definitely going to impact construction as well.


Todd Miller [00:24:17] You know, it's interesting. I had a question down that I realize now is just a silly question, and I'm going to go ahead and talk about it because I think it does show, you know? Well, what all I have to learn. But I was going to ask you a question about, you know, is the need for universal design growing or shrinking? And you know what a dumb question. I mean, it really is out there that it's going to be a and needs to be a basic change. One of the things I thought about you touched on earlier. I remember a number of years ago, my adult sister was in an accident and broke her leg and really her only choice during recuperation, where she had this forecast was to move back into my parent's home. Well my parents lived in a tri-level, which absolutely couldn't have been worse for the situation and had absolutely nothing in that house that was conducive at all to someone with a fullcast and in a wheelchair and all that type of thing. And I just remember looking and thinking at that time how miserable that existence had to be as she was recuperating, even as she was trapped basically in two little rooms of their house because they simply couldn't get her anyplace else. But so. You had some very specific needs that that drove you toward universal design, but maybe you could expand a little bit more and I kind of touched on it right now with this with my sister, but touch a little bit more on how all people benefit from universal design. And as I have learned, and I'm still learning, universal design really means that these are concepts that are good for everyone. So can you maybe expand a little bit on that idea of it being good for everyone? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:26:09] Well, focus on safety. One of the premier aspects of universal design. And if you look in your home, what do you have as safety features that's built in so you won't trip and fall? Let's take a look at the bathroom, for example, to what extent you have the ability to either get into a bathtub or get into a shower without tripping and falling. And what types of things would universal design support? And the most obvious is the grab bar. And so to what extent do the homes that are being built today have the reinforcement there and the wherewithal to talk to the design team to say, let's pick out some wonderful-looking grab bars that match the towel bars so that these safety features are included. So it impacts everyone when we have tours in our house we had before the pandemic, over 3300 people have toured our home in person. And then we have the virtual tour at our website But the comments we were getting, especially from the women, they would say when they looked at our shower, they said, oh, I like that grab bar there. When I was pregnant, that would have been very helpful to me to stabilize me. And another woman would chime in, oh, I wish I had that now when I'm shaving my legs. It would be great to hold on to that bar. So we're seeing comments from a variety of people, and maybe it's a matter of saying that is a balance bar and thinking about it from another perspective, it helps keep your balance. It's not a symbol that you're feeble and old, everyone needs a little safety balance bar by the toilet and into the shower and into the tub area. 


Todd Miller [00:28:02] Wow. That's a dare I said, no, I had someone in my home once they were one of my bathrooms and I don't know what happened. They slipped or something and they grabbed for that towel bar and ripped that right off the wall because it was not made to be used as a grab bar. So. Very interesting. So I mean, do you see advancements being made along these lines and construction in general, I mean do you think some things are getting better? Or I mean, I guess all of us are developing this vision that at some point all construction would be universal design. And how great would it even be if this new infrastructure bill had some requirements in it for that? But are you seeing improvements and advancements or what are your thoughts as far as the timeline of this? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:28:49] We have a population that's getting older. Yesterday's New York Times had an article on the U.S. Census data that just came out. And if you're familiar with the villages just north of Orlando, Florida, the census had just reported yesterday a 40 percent increase in population in the villages from 2010 to 20. And so OK, looking around your community or looking around your friends and family every second we're getting older, and as we're aging, we'd love to be able to age in place. So we're looking at the building community thinking about that population, those baby boomers, they're the ones that are making decisions for their final home and they would love a quality of life. They're looking at apartments, looking at single-family homes, they're looking at condominiums. And so there is an opportunity for the construction industry to take note of that. It's not necessarily for only older folks, but realizing that the census is showing there's a market out there for this population that is over 50. 


Todd Miller [00:30:06] Interesting. As you have gone down this path and you know, you were designing your home, you've continued to stay active in that arena. Have you found any particular manufacturers of building materials or perhaps designers, architects of buildings that have been especially proactive or especially helpful in furthering universal design? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:30:28] Yes, I can quote some of our wonderful contributors to the Universal Design Living Laboratory. These are companies that were very generous, offering us discounts or no cost on some of the products and some of the installation. And one comes to mind is Marvin Windows. They're also energy-efficient, a wonderful product. But from the universal design side, we chose them because they are casement windows. There are a lot easier to open and close with a crank instead of the double-hung that you have to lift with your back, and the crank was reachable from a seated position as well as the lock on the window. And that's why we selected Marvin for both the green and the universal design components. And then when we look at the appliances, the major appliances are from KitchenAid and Whirlpool. As I alluded to, the washer and dryer being very easy for us. In the refrigerator, the shelves roll out to me so that me with short arms can get items in the back. It's a side by side, refrigerator and freezer. I think that configuration works well. Another creative product from Gaggenau, this was a oven with the hinge on the side of the door. So imagine when you're putting in a pizza or you're putting in a ham or a turkey, how that door typically is hinged on the bottom that then limits your accessibility if you're standing there or seated there. So we were very attracted to Gagganeau, not only for the side-hinged oven, but also they had an in-counter steamer. A name like Rosetti, wouldn't you expect I cook spaghetti once in a while? And so this is a wonderful innovation. It's part of the cooktop. It's a place to fill the vessel, the in-counter steamer with water with a pot filler from Koehler. That's right there. When the water boils, I just lower a basket with uncooked pasta and cook it and then put it in a serving platter and push a button and the water drains right there at the cooktop. So it's totally safe and independent for me. So these are a couple of companies. There's many, many, some of the more recent ones. Shelf Genie came in recently and put in some new solutions in our closet so that we could pull down the closet rod from a seated position for those clothes that were hanging tall. They've got some wonderful products out there, a lot of solutions for storage at the Rev-A-Shelf. Also. 


Todd Miller [00:33:14] Good stuff. So, so a couple of years ago, my wife and I had the kitchen in our home remodeled, and I wish I would have contacted you and thought about some of these things. And it's interesting when you talked about the oven because we have a wall oven that is mounted maybe a little bit higher than a normal wall oven, but my wife and I are both five-seven. Well, something has to come in or out of that oven, my wife is getting me. I mean she just won't do it because of trying to reach over that door that is flipped down right in front of you at that point. So interesting. Do you think architectural schools are, do you hear that they're getting better about teaching universal design to their students? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:33:56] I think they are. They're coming here on tours they're doing. In fact, I've got one September 16th with some architectural students in St. Louis. They've asked me to do a program on creativity and design. So there are courses out there, and we often bring in interior design students and architectural students and engineering students on tours. So I think it's hitting the younger generation, and I think they're getting it. You know, when we have young people in here, they think it's very cool. It's very modern. When they see a four-foot by seven-foot shower with no lip on it, and then they see the glass block letting natural light in and they see the water drains to the back in a channel drain from Quick Drain USA. They see this is a modern technology now. It's not your grandmother's shower anymore. And so then they see the hand shower with the ability to sit on the shower chair that's attached to the wall and adjust that hand shower, making that so easy for everyone. 


Seth Heckaman [00:35:04] Wow. Very neat. Rosemarie, it's so inspiring hearing how you've become such a leader in this segment of the industry and in the advancements and kind of the evangelist you are for universal design when you know, we heard the story earlier. Obviously, that was not a part of your life before your accident, but and you were obviously very successful pre-accident as well, being a professor at Ohio State and, you know, the publishing company in your basement. I was struck when you were telling your story, you said that's when the depression set in. So how can you, can we revisit that for a second? How did you go from depressed to then innovative and industrious and entrepreneurial? Again, all those, all those values that you've already had and we're making use of what did that process look like and what do you what do you offer to others who are going through tragedy to, you know, come out the other side proactively like you have? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:36:06] Well, let's take it Seth from the beginning when I first woke up from the surgery. I was lucky to be alive, fortunately. I mean, for me, going into surgery and going under for the anesthesia, the last thought on my mind, I'm going to tell you now. Will this be my last thought? I didn't know I'd be alive ever again after that surgery. So you wake up in intensive care, hooked up to all the equipment laying on my back. I was in a new state of, oh my gosh, I'm alive again. And I vowed right then that no matter what, I was lucky to be alive. So that's the first part. And then the realization of I'm paralyzed from the waist down. I have a spinal cord injury. I'll probably use a wheelchair, maybe for the rest of my life. And then the realization of the pain and the depression got worse. The inability to feed myself, to hold a toothbrush, to even move in bed. The depression was extreme. Coming home from the hospital. More depression, because now all the staff that was taking care of me was no longer in my home. It was Mark's responsibility. So there were times when I wasn't sure life was worth living, and someone had suggested that I go to a motivational seminar to readjust my framework. And the book that changed everything, one book. I'm going to give you the title Man's Search for Meaning.


Seth Heckaman [00:37:41] Victor Frankl. 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:37:42] Yes, Viktor Frankl. Someone had recommended it in the motivational seminar. I came home and told Mark. He said, I read that in high school, I think I still have a copy. Then he went into the basement. He found his copy and brought it to my bed so that I could read it immediately with a box of tissues on my side. That book taught me about the meaning for life, and it's about love. And if I love Mark, we had only been married three years, and if I loved my mother and my brothers and all my friends and other family that were there rallying me in a big way at the hospital, and when I came home, there was no way I was going to check out of life. Life is about love and brings meaning to life. And so from that point on, I got better. We also realized Mark's depression was worse than mine. As the survivor, as the person who was there trying to warn me about the tree falling, he saw it falling and he yelled. But there was nothing I could do or he could do. So we immediately got a counselor that worked with us for a year on the depression, on the grieving to cope with this. It was a mental struggle for the two of us. And Mark was prescribed some medication for depression to help him get over it. So it's a very personal story that needs to be told. When you're in depression, it's an illness. It's a medical illness because it can really drive you down and your healing doesn't continue. Your state of mind is totally in a flux of I don't even want to get up. I don't want to move. Why bother? So you have to go through some counseling, read some material, and get the help that's needed. Don't ignore it. Go get some help to get out of that funk and move forward and say, I can't change what happened anymore. That was a situation, a circumstance beyond our control. But I can change how I react to that situation. I'm still me. Even though I couldn't walk, I still had my brain. I still had my skill set. I still had the ability to move forward. I just had to figure out what I was going to do now. 


Seth Heckaman [00:40:11] Hmm. Thank you. All so inspiring and thank you for your transparency and Mark's transparency for letting that those key details that so many people need to know and know it's OK to get the help you need and what that can mean the opportunity on the backside of it. So thank you 


Todd Miller [00:40:33] And thank you. So thank goodness you, you know, you did make it through all that because you're doing so much good today. Tell us more. You touched a little bit on some of the things with the architectural students coming in from St. Louis. Tell us more about some of the education and things that you're doing today and have been doing to help further the awareness and adoption of universal design.


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:40:57] Well, there's a national Universal Design Summit coming up at the end of September. It was just announced yesterday. It will not be in St. Louis. It will now be virtual thanks to the pandemic. So I am on the docket to do a presentation for them on September 30th from home. It will be recorded and to a livestream audience also. So there are lots of conferences that I'm invited to and those are the ones that are coming up. Both of them very virtually, September 16th at St. Louis University to their students. And then the world at large for the Universal Design Summit. I also am on the Board of Trustees for the Global Universal Design Commission. So this is an international body, a nonprofit organization promoting universal design throughout, not just in the homes, but also in workplaces. And so I've got lots of new clients that we're working with to create the work spaces to be more inclusive, especially now that people are going back to work to accommodate those with not only mobility challenges, but vision and hearing and intellectual. So there's a lot of work that now is taking me on a new path that I never expected to go looking at universal design in the workplace. In addition, I'm looking at hospitality design, working with the hotel industry and the vacation rental industry, talking to them about the accessibility going beyond ADA with universal design. ADA is the benchmark. That's the low standard universal design takes it so much farther beyond what's required by law. 


Todd Miller [00:42:49] You know, it's interesting we had pointed out in a previous podcast, we were interviewing a engineer, and he commented that building codes in general, that's the bare minimum. You know, it's always about going above and beyond that, so. Very interesting. Well, thank you very much for all the effort and work and, you know, out of tragedy, but how perfect were you coming out of the education field to carry this message forward in a powerful way? So, you know, we hope that we've got some younger folks out there who are listening and viewing our Construction Disruption. Is there any particular advice you'd give to them to help them and inspire them to continue to build and remodel in ways that take all those occupants and all those potential occupants in mind? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:43:42] Well, I would recommend the book that I wrote. We haven't talked about that yet. I wrote a book for your audience. 


Todd Miller [00:43:47] Let's do that. 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:43:49] And so I recommend it highly. It is the universal design toolkit. It comes with 16 videos, so this is a wonderful opportunity. That's why I put it together and they can acquire it. It is a PDF, so you can carry it around on any of your cell phones or your laptop or your iPads or tablets. The PDF is available at Universal Design Tool Kit dot com. I'll give you a free chapter, and that is a list of the universal design features in our home room by room. So just go to our main website, and click on download free chapter of the Universal Design Toolkit. Now, some of you like the printed version, so you can purchase the printed copy at the Amazon website. So either way, you can use it as a PDF or printed. The videos are a behind-the-scenes video tour of the home, as well as some replays of the webinars I've done for the construction industry. There are others on my website. There are other videos that you can see, as well as over 100 articles about our home, either that I've written or people in the industry have written about the home. So spend some time at, take the virtual tour. It's really cool. Google did a wonderful job. They took over 700 photos of our home. You can actually play a game, our cat was loose, Todd during the photoshoot. And so she appears in many of the rooms. She's a little orange tabby cat. You'll be able to see the entire home as well as some of the landscape. And going into the lower level, we have a training room where you can go down and look at that. So there's a lot of certifications out there for your viewers. The NAHB, of course, has the certified aging-in-place specialist. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry has a universal design certification. There's a certified living-in-place professional. I've taken that course and I'm certified in that, so go forward and get some certification, take these courses. Many of them are online now, so it's distributed over a period of time from the convenience of your own home. 


Todd Miller [00:46:18] Wow. Well, this time has really flown by, and I have to tell you, even though we had some history and I've heard you speak before and I've been on the website, this still has been so eye-opening to me, Rosemarie, in terms of the need for universal design and exactly what all this could entail and how this could change our world in such a better way to see more and more universal design. Curious, is there anything that we haven't covered today? We've covered a lot. Thank you. But is there anything we haven't covered that you'd like to share with our listeners? 


Rosemarie Rossetti [00:46:54] Well, I'm here for your listeners. Please reach out to me. My direct contact is easy. It's Rosemarie, R-O-S-E-M-A-R-I-E at Feel free to reach out to me. My second website,, features the more the speaking side of my business and the consulting side. If any of you are developing new homes or condominiums or vacation rentals or apartments and you just like Mark and I to do a plan review, we'd be happy to do that on a fee basis. And if any of you are aware of the other conferences, either virtual or in-person, I'd be honored if you'd put my name in for consideration. 


Todd Miller [00:47:41] Well, I very much hope that we can help spread the word and get some folks out there who are being more mindful of universal design and of course, you as a leading expert being able to play a role in that. So thank you so much for joining us today. This is again, time has flown. It's been a real pleasure. Great to connect with you again. But I thank everyone for tuning in to this episode of Construction Disruption with our guest, Dr. Rosemarie Rossetti, world-renowned expert in the area of universal design. Again, it's been a real pleasure. Thank you so much for what you're doing, and I hope that through this podcast, we really can raise awareness and get some other folks and really some true disrupters out there who are who will be pursuing universal design. Well, that was interesting, so we sat down, I thought, to record a podcast and talk about a new neat area of construction and then it ended up instead on this emotional roller coaster. What an amazing guest. What an incredible story. You can't help, but as you listen to Rosemarie, you can't help but, you know, put yourself or your family in those shoes and think what that would have been like. And yet you look at someone who out of tragedy has, you know, really figured out, OK, what am I supposed to do with this? What can I do with this to change the world? And has used the gifts and the skills and the talents she always has had to go out and provide education and hopefully bring change out there. I think it's interesting as we think about, you know, they sat down and designed this home and designed it out of realizing needs and necessities and challenges and obstacles they had. But, you know, they also did a lot of reaching out to other companies and saying, hey, how can you help us be able to make this better and really capture this idea of universal design? You know, one of the questions I wish I would have asked her. I mean, she kind of gave us the history of universal design. I'm curious if she had ever heard the term before her accident happened. I mean, my guess is she probably hadn't. So it really would be important if we can use this as a catalyst to help raise some awareness of that. 


Seth Heckaman [00:50:14] Absolutely. I can't recommend she gave the most powerful recommendation for that. That Man's Search for Meaning, but I read that at a critical juncture of my life, and it meant a lot to me, too. So it was special for me to hear that brought up, and I highly recommend it. But you know, that whole idea meaning of life, the purpose of life is love and compassion. You know, those of us spiritual folks, you know, God is love and what all that means and how it infiltrates everything. But, you know, practical standpoint in our business and in the opportunity to live out the values and virtues, love and compassion. But then also what it means in a consultative sales process when we're working with homeowners or other property owners, bringing new ideas, perspectives, new information to the table and expanding that conversation beyond what they're expecting it to be positions ourselves as the consultant when we open the conversation to include, OK, what does aging in place look like over the next 20 years? Here are other things you need to consider. There is emotional benefit to that. There is profitable benefit to that so we can accomplish all things. And this idea of universal design can be a key component of it. 


Todd Miller [00:51:37] Yeah, it's interesting to think about that. I mean, it's really just caring and loving for each other or caring for each other and loving each other. And, you know, doing that in how we design and how we build structures. And I have seen a few contractors in recent years who are remodeling contractors who are really focused on this, adapting a home for aging in place. And God bless them. It's great they're doing that. But wouldn't it be wonderful if they didn't have anything to do because that home was already built for that or already built for that person who perhaps, you know, broke their leg or suffered some even worse, tragic accident? One of the things that I think about and you've touched on it. I hope that COVID has been a time for all of us to become a little more reflective, a little more caring, a little more realizing that we need each other because we've been separated from each other a lot. So I hope that all of this just ends up in that time that we realize how can we do that in our careers and our workplaces and in our families, and to show more care for one another? 


Seth Heckaman [00:52:54] Absolutely.


Todd Miller [00:52:55] Good stuff. Please watch for future episodes of our podcast, we have more great guests on tap. Don't forget to leave a review or comment on Apple Podcasts or YouTube. And until our next episode, I encourage everybody, change the world for someone. Make them smile, bring them encouragement. Bring them hope just as you have to us today, Rosemarie. All of those are some of the most powerful things that we can do to change the world. Literally one interaction at a time. God bless everyone. Take care. This is Isaiah Industries, Seth and Todd signing off until the next episode of Construction Disruption.