Our Story

What started as a simple idea has grown into an invaluable resource for our community

In June of 2016, a collective of volunteers from the Spina Bifida Clinic at Upstate University Hospital, Syracuse University School of Design, and Jowonio School gathered for the first adaptive design workshop in Syracuse. This event was orchestrated with guidance from the NYC-based Adaptive Design Association, who taught the Syracuse volunteers the core fundamentals and mindset of adaptive design. This put the wheels in motion for the local group to continue to meet throughout the next year building equipment for and with those in need. At that time the program was initially under the name Adaptive Design Association (ADA) Syracuse.

Throughout the first year and a half the adaptive design effort in Syracuse was a completely volunteer-based initiative. Volunteers would regularly meet a few times a month to work with individuals and families in the community who were in need of specialized equipment (solutions) to help them overcome a challenge due to a disability. These building events took place in various locations around the community, and became known as “pop-up builds”. Depending on the month, the group could be found in a church gymnasium, Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, the local Home Depot, or even in someone’s garage; wherever space was available to set up a makeshift workshop. As the program gained momentum and quickly grew, it was clear that this service was something previously absent and desperately needed within the community.

The volunteer group eventually sought a community partner that would help formalize and grow the program. In 2017, ADA Syracuse was taken on by ARISE who saw adaptive design as an integral piece of its independent living philosophy, and the idea to incorporate adaptive design as an ARISE program took shape. With this merger ADA Syracuse was renamed ARISE Adaptive Design, and Connor McGough was brought on as the Program Coordinator.

To date the program continues to grow and develop within the community. In March of 2019, with the help of startup grant funding, the program was able to move into its own workshop in downtown Syracuse where materials and equipment can be stored, families can visit for fittings and to trial equipment, and build events can regularly take place. To help keep up with the demand since opening up the workshop, a part time fabricator was also brought on board allowing the program to flourish even further.

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