Missouri State University


Elaine Ostroff

Elaine Ostroff, Hon. AIA, co-founded Adaptive Environments in 1978, which is now the Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD). In 1989, she developed the Universal Design Education Project (UDEP) with design educators.

UDEP became an international model for infusing universal design in professional design curriculum, emphasizing the involvement of people with functional limitations in the teaching and learning process. She coined the term “user/expert” to identify the individuals whose personal experiences give them unique critical capacity to evaluate environments. She now directs the Access to Design Professions Project at IHCD, to encourage people with disabilities to enter the design profession as a way to improve the practice of universal design.

Ostroff holds a BS from Brandeis University, an EdM from Harvard University and was a Radcliffe Institute Fellow in 1970-72. She is the founder of Looking Glass Theatre in Rhode Island, where she learned the power of transforming environments and participatory leadership. She served as the senior editor of the Universal Design Handbook published by McGraw-Hill in 2001.

Ostroff has been honored by the Association on Higher Education and Disability and the Environmental Design Research Association. She also was awarded Honorary Member designation by the American Institute of Architects.

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