Accessible Design of Engineered Products and Technology (ADEPT)

Email doit@uw.edu to learn more about how you can get involved!


Accessible Design of Engineered Products and Technology (ADEPT) works to build a strong and sustainable national network of engineering faculty, students, and professionals interested in and able to address issues related to disability, accessibility, and universal design (UD). This project will further the ability of engineers to develop and deploy technology and other products that are accessible to people with disabilities. Universal design seeks to ensure that products are usable to the widest audience possible, including individuals with disabilities. The objective of ADEPT is to educate engineers about accessibility, UD, and best practices to involve individuals with disabilities in design and development of new products and technology.

One in five adults in the United States have a disability of one form or another.1 These individuals benefit from technology and other products and environments that are accessibly designed. Most problems imposed by inaccessible design have well-documented solutions. Considering accessibility and UD from the outset of the design process leads to products and environments that can be used by a larger proportion of the population, thus contributing to the welfare of humanity by making a more inclusive world.

Companies have joined together under an initiative called Teach Access to promote teaching accessibility in postsecondary settings because they have found that engineers are unfamiliar with accessibility. ABET (formerly Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) has recently incorporated accessibility into its criteria.2 However, many engineering faculty today are not fully aware of accessibility nor is the topic taught in most engineering curricula.3, 4 In a recent study, faculty indicated a willingness to teach about accessibility if they had more resources on the topic.5 Students who have been explicitly taught about UD are more likely to consider criteria that increase usability in their design process than students who have not learned about UD.4 In spite of its potential to enhance engineering courses, UD or related topics are not integrated into the engineering curricula.6 Moreover, students with disabilities feel more welcome in engineering courses when topics related to disability are included in the curriculum.7

Project Activities

ADEPT hosts a community and develops resources to engage engineering faculty, students, and professionals nationwide in professional development activities to pique their interest in disability and accessibility and share best practices in incorporating these topics into engineering courses. Activities include the following:

  • Community of Practice (CoP). The CoP model has origins in business. ADEPT hosts a CoP focused on accessibility in engineering. Faculty, students, and professionals share perspectives and expertise; suggest project activities; and share problems, solutions, and practices. To join the CoP, email doit@uw.edu.
  • Training Webinars. A series of eight to ten webinars will feature engineering professionals, faculty, and students with disabilities discussing access issues and solutions, UD, and curriculum. Webinars will be presented with captions on an accessible platform and archived online. Speakers will be recruited from existing DO-IT contacts. Topics explored may include sensorimotor neural engineering, robotics, software engineering, and mechanical engineering.
  • Accessibility Briefs. ADEPT will develop and post on the project website a collection of twelve accessibility briefs that outline topics that could be included in engineering curricula. This collection can be utilized by engineering faculty in their courses or by engineering students to further their understanding of accessibility. Students who submit materials to the collection will receive an honorarium and recognition of their contribution.

ADEPT’s Impact

ADEPT benefits the engineering profession by increasing the knowledge of accessibility among engineering educators and the future engineering workforce, encourage collaboration among individuals interested in accessibility, and will lead to the design and development of more inclusive projects. By encouraging engineers to develop accessible products and technology, ADEPT will better the lives of many individuals with disabilities—helping to better the welfare of humanity.

ADEPT is made possible with funding from the United Engineering Foundation (UEF). UEF’s vision is to advance the engineering arts and sciences for the welfare of humanity.


  1. Courtney-Long, E. A., Carroll, D. A., Zhang, Q. C., Stevens, A. C. Griffin-Blake, S., Armour, B. S., & Campbell, V. A. (2015, July 31). Prevalence of disability and disability type among adults, United States – 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 64(29), 777 – 783.
  2. ABET. (2017–2018). Criteria for accrediting engineering programs, 2017–2018. Retrieved from http://www.abet.org/accreditation/accreditation-criteria/criteria-for-accrediting-engineering-programs-2017-2018/
  3. Blaser, B., Steele, K.M., and Burgstahler, S.B. (2015). Including universal design in engineering courses to attract diverse students. In proceedings from the ASEE Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA.
  4. Bigelow, K.E. (2012). Designing for success: Developing engineers who consider universal design principles. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 25(3), 212 – 231.
  5. Shinohara, K., Kawas, S., Ko, A. J., & Ladner, R. E. (2018). Who teaches accessibility?: A survey of U.S. computing faculty. In Proceedings of SIGCSE ’18: the 49th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education. New York, NY: Association of Computing Machinery, pp. 197-202
  6. Erlandson, R., Enderle, J., & Winters, J. (2006). Educating engineers in universal design and accessible design. In J.M. Winters & M.F. Story (Eds.). Medical instrumentation: Accessibility & usability considerations. CRC Press.
  7. Harbour, W. S., & Greenberg, D. (2017, July). Campus climate and students with disabilities. NCCSD Research Brief, 1(2). Huntersville, NC: National Center for College Students with Disabilities, Association on Higher Education and Disability. Retrieved from http://www.nccsdonline.org/uploads/7/6/7/7/7677280/nccsd_campus_climate_brief_-_final_pdf_with_tags2.pdf