Tag Archives: universal design

SCI Superstar: Riley Poor

Riley Poor is a lifelong professional in the world of action sports filming. In his previous AB-life, he was a film director at Red Bull capturing footage of skiing, snowboarding and free-ride mountain biking. “It was the type of dream job that few are lucky enough to encounter,” he gushes.

Post-injury, however, Riley had to re-tool his career, but he’s been able to stay true to what he loves. From becoming an executive producer at Nike to writing a new blog in which he and his girlfriend share their life together in Portland, Oregon, Riley has made an impressive transition since becoming paralyzed. Read on to see exactly what we mean.

Why He’s Fearless

In high school, Riley, now 34, began filming action sports, and he knew right away it was something he wanted to pursue. His career in the industry took off, allowing him to have an amazing professional life in his early 20s. But in 2009, everything changed when Riley jumped into a shallow pool, breaking his neck. “I was jumping off the edge of the pool doing a backflip and a friend jumping in next to me pushed me and stopped my rotation,” he says. “My head lightly clipped the bottom of the pool, and all the angles were just right to dislocate at C5/6.”

Knowing plenty of people with SCI before his injury because of his work in extreme sports, Riley was more prepared than most for his new life with a SCI. “I was surprisingly at peace with my new reality and somehow knew that this was a test I was meant to take,” he says. “I also knew enough quads and paras to know that I would never be the same.”

Once he was discharged from the ICU at a New York hospital, Riley chose Craig Hospital as his rehab facility. “And I hopped a $26,000 flight to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado,” he says, “where I spent the next four months rehabbing.”

Impressively, Riley never let his career fall to the wayside. “My injury was barely a break from work as I was in production on a self-directed documentary for Red Bull that I still somehow managed to deliver on time that year,” he recalls. “My opportunity to come to work at Nike came shortly after finishing the film, and I jumped on it and have been happily riding my desk here ever since.” He is currently an Executive Producer in the production studio at Nike, making films and advertisements.

What’s Next?

About three years ago, Riley’s life improved significantly in two more ways – he met his girlfriend, Andrea, and he began the remodel of a single-story home he recently purchased. On a tight budget and using some awesome creativity, Riley and his architects designed a beautiful universally accessible home without breaking the bank. A one-bedroom home with an open bathroom in the bedroom (with a curved glass shower made from basic materials), his house is something to behold. Go on a house tour with Riley here.

And check out his and Andrea’s blog, Poor House Love. Through their blog posts, they share what it’s like to have a spinal cord injury in a relationship. You’ll find posts on traveling together as a couple, tiny homes for wheelchair users (Riley’s family helped invented the WheelPad), even the benefits of using a hyperbaric chamber to ease chronic pain (it works!).

Life may not be the huge adrenaline rush it was before Riley’s life, but he’s 100% ok with that. He had his fun. “I have a drone that I play with for fun,” he says. “I also enjoy getting out and about on my electric arm bike when the sun is out, and Andrea and I have also become dedicated gardeners.” So yeah, life is still good for Riley, just in a different way.

Post-injury, did your desire to live life at full-speed waver at all?

– Follow Riley & Andrea’s adventures: Poor House Love

 Riley’s blog: The Life of Riley Poor

Watch Videos of Riley

A Day With Riley Poor

Runs for Riley Poor

Universal Accessibility by LineSync Architecture | Portland, Oregon | Riley Poor Home

SCI Superstar: Michael Graves


You may have heard of Michael Graves’ before, especially if you shop at Target for kitchen gadgets. A man who had been paralyzed for only 11 years but designed both memorable buildings and high-style health products (and teaching design at Princeton along the way), Michael’s goal in architecture was to always be about making functional things more beautiful. And boy did he succeed.

Michael is the mind behind hundreds of stunning buildings all around world, including Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, California. He was a powerhouse architect since the ’80s and continued designing until the day of his death. A few health setbacks never turned off Michael Graves’ desire to design, it only fueled his desire to design.

His disability inspired him to start thinking about redesigning everything in the healthcare world too, from patient rooms to wheelchairs, and he’s come up with some beautiful stuff. Read on for the backstory of one of America’s greatest architects, Michael Graves.

Why he’s fearless

Growing up in Indiana, Michael loved to draw; loved it. So much so that after high school, he went on to get his bachelor’s in drawing. Afterwards receiving his BA, he went to Harvard to get his masters degree in architecture.

He also went to art school in Italy to further foster his love of drawing, and drawing remained one of his favorite activities his entire life. The architect and art school student witth natural talent eventually graduated, and he went to work right away.

Michael founded his architecture firm in 1964, Graves & Associates, and soon began designing many of the now-iconic buildings he is known for; nearly 300 in total and all different types from business headquarters and hotels to government buildings and individual residences. Trophy buildings if you will that have been lauded by presidents, including President Clinton who gave him the National Medal of Arts in 2001.

The buildings Graves and his design team can be credited for are vast. Here’s just a sampling: The Swan and Dolphin resorts in Walt Disney World, the Denver Public Library, the Tajima Office Building in Tokyo, Japan, the Crown American Building in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the Engineering Center for the University of Cincinnati, the scaffolding for the renovation of the Washington monument, the Miramar Resort in Egypt and the Impala building in NYC.

Michael also dabbled in product design before the onset of his disability, designing watches as well as high-style kitchen gadgets for JC Penney, Alessi and Target, with a sleek teapot with a bird near the spout for JC Penney, driving in record sales. His teapot remains one of his favorite designs.

A mysterious sinus infection however in 2003 changed Michael Graves’ world. Doctors till this day are still unsure of the actual virus that caused his paralysis, however it did try to reoccur and make Michael even more paralyzed. Fortunately, doctors at the Miami Project were able to stop the infection and preserve his movement from the waist up.

What’s next?

Realizing the disability he now had was likely permanent, Michael began to cast a critical eye on everything he was encountering in the healthcare world in regards to design (and absolutely hating the “lazy” Velcr0 solution for so much), from the patient’s room and wheelchair to the gadgets they use; “unnecessarily ugly” he says, Michael wants to redesign it all.

In 2009 he teamed up with Styker, a wheelchair and medical product manufacturer, to redesign many of their products such as bedside and overbed tables. In 2014, one of his last products, Graves redesigned their patient transport chair, the Styker Prime TC, and he gave it a one-time central brake, more ergonomic push handles and swing away footrests. Check out his designs

Universal design is another area Michael has been putting his creative energies into and he worked with the Wounded Warriors Home Project to develop three amazing accessible homes for injured veterans in Ft. Belvoir, VA. He is all about creating completely realistic design that’s functional.

Sadly, last week the renowned architect passed away quietly in his sleep at the age of 80 at his home in Priceton, NJ. The world is a more beautiful place because of Michael Graves, and the disability world has become more beautiful because of him. We will miss him greatly.

– Visit his site: Michaelgraves.com

– Read more from the Washington Post: Michael Graves, innovative architect and designer, dies at 80

Listen to NPR’s tribute to Michael Graves

What are your favorite Michael Graves designs?

Watch the videos!

Michael Graves at TEDMED 2011

Adaptability: Universal Design and the Story Michael Graves

Michael Graves: A Case for Humanistic Solutions in Healthcare Design