Providence Business News, article by NATALIE MYERS

When it’s completed, Southside Community Land Trust’s main office will have a handicapped-accessible entryway linked to a new deck and a ramp leading down to 10 community garden plots.

Rosanne Ramos, designer for the project, would eventually like to see the 50-square-foot plots built at varying heights to accommodate people in wheelchairs and seniors who have trouble bending down to garden. 
rendering of more than on way to gardening
Southside Community Land Trust is a nonprofit that has turned five acres of formerly vacant lots in Providence into community gardens that grow food for 200 families.

Colin O’Hara, director of office operations, said Southside is making its office and the 10 plots outside more accessible to comply with government requirements, but also for a neighborhood boy in a wheelchair whose mom gardens there, and several seniors who could use the plots if they were more accessible.

The project is one of a few public projects that Inclusion by Design has taken on since Ramos incorporated the design firm last summer after splitting from former partner Kat Darula. The pair, both Rhode Island School of Design graduates, had founded Multi Design for People, which dissolved after Darula took a position at Item Group.

It always has been part of Ramos’ mission to offer design services, in some cases as in-kind donations to nonprofits such as Southside, as a way of being socially responsible. But the firm also caters to private clients who would like space redesigned to better fit their lifestyles.

“Those are people who have a diverse lifestyle or needs pertaining to their disability,” she said.

Inclusion by Design also has a major deal to redesign five libraries in Texas.

“Business is taking off,” Ramos said. “I couldn’t be happier. We’ve had great response to the new company.”

Asked how she lands clients on a national scale, Ramos said she immerses herself in networks around the country and internationally. She goes to conferences related to universal design and design for people with disabilities.

For example, Ramos attended the No Barriers Festival in Squaw Valley, Calif., earlier this month, where speakers described the latest in assistive technology for people with disabilities – including cutting-edge prosthetic technology.

“It’s part of my design research,” she said, adding that it also helps her find new contracts and possible collaborators. “At the same time I am able to introduce my philosophy and approach to design … I get to educate the community in how we all need to demand more from design.”

Ramos’ design process is “very holistic,” she said. “It’s very contextual.”

When her firm is asked to evaluate a product or space, Ramos said, the design team puts the product or space through a series of filters so that they can see how it performs in a variety of contexts to incorporate the experiences of people with limited visibility, people who have difficulty with balance, people who are short or tall, people in wheelchairs, etc.

Inclusion by Design has one full-time employee in addition to Ramos, one intern and two freelancers, she said. But the firm also relies heavily on collaboration to offer all the services it does to clients.

The firm is multidisciplinary. It provides everything from planning for spaces to product consulting to consulting for architecture projects and graphic design.

Ramos teamed up with Providence-based Truth Box architects for the Southside project. The firm focuses on sustainable architecture and “green” building practices, which felt like a perfect fit for the project, considering it is a community garden, she said.

“Collaboration is becoming almost inevitable in terms of trends,” she said. “We need to collaborate and understand how all these disciplines of design work together to be effective.”