SCI Superstar: Rosemarie Rossetti


“I have an active life with inactive feet,” says Rosemarie Rossetti, who is one of the few people with a spinal cord injury who was a motivational speaker long before her injury. Rosemarie has always been a woman deeply involved in life, whether it’s in the business world as a communications coach, teaching oral communications at Ohio State University or being involved in her community. A career woman times infinity is no understatement with this lady.

So when Rosemarie in 1998, at the height of her career at age 44, was suddenly hit by a 80 ft tree (while on a bicycle ride with her husband, celebrating their 3rd wedding anniversary no less) and became a paraplegic, she refused to let that stop her forward motion. Here’s how this fierce woman has taken her life back quicker than most, and has figured out a way to use her skills to help a whole new group of people.

Why she’s fearless

Waking up in the hospital and unable to work, the possibilities of what she would now do with her life flowed through her mind (luckily Rosemarie had disability insurance, so she was able to receive income while recovering. This is a great tip for ABs). But as a talented speaker in both the business world and academic world, she knew this was something she could still do sitting down. In fact, one of the first things she did was publish a book two years after getting hurt called, Take Back Your Life! (a compilation of her inspirational messages post-injury). She was also a Winter Olympic torch bearer in 2002 and Ms. Wheelchair Ohio in 2004.

But speaking was just one thing Rosemarie wanted to still make sure was a part of her life. She’s also a huge plant lover and has a degree in Horticulture in addition to a Ph.D. in Agricultural Education. Once she returned home and faced the reality that 50% of her home was no longer accessible, as well as her gardens (she had a two-story home), she knew this was something she was born to tackle.

Soon Rosemarie was immersed in the world of universal design (an architecture concept that’s been around since 1980) and she and her husband eventually came up with a great idea, to not only help themselves but others with limited mobility (or those who may experience it one day), and that was to build the Universal Living Design Laboratory; a living and breathing home replete with the best universal design concepts available.

The 3,5000 sq. ft. home located in Columbus, Ohio was ready for Rosemarie and her husband, Mark Leder to move into on May 18, 2012  and what they’ve built is a true show home. It’s built with universal design principles, green building concepts and even Feng Shui. And the gardens, both inside and outside, is totally accessible. She and her husband Mark Leder also live in the home, but it’s available for tours by appointment.

What’s next?

With Rosemarie’s sweat and hard work finally being realized in the Universal Design Living Laboratory, she’s been fully immersed in the responsibilities of running the home. In fact, the home was just outfitted with art glass ceiling panels in the library hallway this month (if you ‘like’ the home on Facebook here you can keep up with its latest upgrades). I love how this home shows how luxuriously high-end universal design can be.

While a lot of people in chairs talk about how much they like universal design, or would love to see it catch on one day, Rosemarie is actually doing something to further the cause. You gotta love this lady’s gumption. Check out the official site for the Universal Living Design Laboratory here

How has Rosemarie Rossetti inspired you? What are your thoughts on universal design? How have you worked it into your home?

Watch her videos

Rosemarie Rossetti speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for her Universal Design Living Laboratory

Rosemarie Rossetti shows universal design features in a kitchen

Rosemarie Rossetti interviewed, talking about universal design myths

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