SASD student-designers win Visitabilty Home Contest

SASD student-designers win Visitabilty Home Contest

Three teams of interior design majors from Shintaro Akatsu School of Design (SASD) have won nearly every award, including First Place, at the Visitability Home Design Contest, an annual competition that challenges teams to create attractive, livable homes to accommodate people with severe disabilities.

The awards were presented by contest sponsor Independence Unlimited on June 1. Entries were judged by a panel of design, architecture, and housing professionals.

  • First Place and a $250 prize was awarded to SASD students Isabella Theberge, Nikita Bontra, Moataz Alhawidni, and Mona Albalawi. The team’s entry, which included and a full-scale model of a home with visitability requirements, was previously exhibited at the University’s 2017 Faculty Research Day in March.
  • The $75 Second Place prize was given to SASD students Alanis Vega-Cruz and Meghan Kennedy, won $75 Third Place.
  • SASD students Amanda Stewart, Christiane Pina, and Kelly Howard, won Fourth Place.

SASD Interior Design Chairperson Marsha Matto advised all three SASD teams.

Matto praised her students’ “eye for design, which includes a perspective of what’s needed in a home to do things we take for granted – washing, moving about a house, cooking –when you have a disability, are elderly, or require more ergonomically and commodious design.”

She added, “As aspiring interior designers, my students spend a lot of time talking about what it means to serve clients with different tastes, needs, and budgets, which is why this contest is such a terrific opportunity. It pushes them to consider the person living in their design, so I’m very proud they won. They’re all sophomores, and the work they do is incredible.”

Contest entries had to follow so-called visitability guidelines. Homes were required to have one zero-step entrance, wider doors and halls, and at least one bathroom on the main floor large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

“The challenge of the contest is to come up with visitable home designs, plot plans, and scale models that are aesthetically pleasing, suitable for area neighborhoods, and practical to build,” said Sue Salters, spokesperson for Independence Unlimited. “With the American population aging and the increasing number of people with disabilities living independently in our communities, the need for housing in Connecticut that is accessible is growing tremendously. Independence Unlimited is trying to change the way Connecticut home builders construct single family homes. By employing visitable home designs, builders will create homes that fit everyone’s needs, no matter their ability or disability.”

Entries were judged by Amy Finke, owner of Sugar Hill Building & Design, LLC; Susan Bridgewater Odell, senior project architect at Paul B. Bailey Architects, LLC; and Charles Emerson, manager or Multifamily Operations-Tech Services for the CT Housing Finance Authority.

About SASD Interior Design The four-year bachelor of science program prepares graduates with the required experience for the N.C.I.D.Q. examination and state registration. Interior Design students learn about gathering design information and problem-solving in a range of actual projects, from residential to commercial design, hospitality,corporate offices, and health care spaces. Students further develop technical skills for expressing design solutions, using traditional sketching methods, computer aided design (Auto CAD) and 3D simulation computer programs. Most projects are done in collaboration with outside design firms, giving an added real-life experience to students that allows them to forge professional connections.

SASD is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design(NASAD),the governing body of undergraduate and graduate art and design schools.

About Independence Unlimited Independence Unlimited (IU) is a non-profit, non-residential cross-disability agency that serves a diverse group of people with disabilities in the 38 cities and towns in Hartford County. Since 1982, IU has provided thousands of Connecticut residents free access to peer counseling, information and referral, skills training, advocacy, and a variety of other individual services including transitioning from nursing facilities into community based settings. IU is one of five Centers for Independent Living serving the citizens of Connecticut.

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625,