When Matthew Thompson graduated from high school in 2010, his parents feared his next steps. Matthew has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, an incurable disease that causes progressive weakness of the body and needs help with daily activities such as brushing teeth. But like any young man, he wanted some kind of independence.

Her father, Rick Thompson, started finding a residential school for handicapped youth. He came back empty-handed: Most of the places he met were for the elderly or people with a mental or developmental disorder.

So I started focusing on building number one, he said.

The result is Champion Place, a home for young people with disabilities that also serves as a research centre for companies developing accessible products. The facility in Jones Creek, Ga. opened its doors to its first 14 residents in October, six years after Thompson co-founded the Community Champion Foundation, a non-profit organization, to fund the project.

The room is designed to be fully accessible for people with spina bifida and cerebral palsy, who often use wheelchairs. Champion Place should not only be a communal home for the residents, but also a social centre for the members of the Titans, a group of 80 wheelchair athletes founded by Mr Thompson in 2009 along with five other families.

But he hopes that the facility will also serve as an incubator for companies developing adaptive and assistive technologies.

This part of our mission can have a positive impact on the lives of thousands of people with disabilities, Thompson said.

Test technique

Some companies are targeting their research and development budgets to design with and for people with disabilities because they realize that this work improves both their public image and their degree of innovation, according to Grace Jun, associate professor of fashion and inclusive design at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.

By working with more people and expanding your customer base, you naturally develop your products to make them more useful and therefore more profitable for more people, she said.

PVH Corp.

Tommy Hilfiger and

Alphabet Inc.

Google is one of the first companies to supply products to the Champions’ Place in exchange for user feedback.

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Fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger, a supplier of the Titans since 2018, says it provides residents with bedding and furniture, as well as Adaptive line clothing, designed to make it easier for people with disabilities to dress up with features such as one-arm zippers, magnetic buttons and adjustable sizes.

At Adaptive Clothing we understand that clothing needs and challenges are constantly changing, says founder and head designer Tommy Hilfiger. That’s why it’s important that we continue to put the consumer at the heart of our process and work directly with the community so that we can continue to update our collections based on their feedback.

Google claims to have provided devices that allow residents to control their environment with their voice. Among them is Max’s Nest, which allows residents to control items such as blinds and doors. The company also supplied kitchen utensils for people with vibrations and limited hand and arm movement. They are called Liftware and are produced by Verily, the life sciences department of Alphabet.

In addition, some residents will be equipped with smart Jacquard jackets from Google that will allow their owners to control certain applications on their smartphones by going over a tactile surface woven into the bracelet, while others with access to software are still under development. Several Champions Place residents are testing Project Euphonia, a Google initiative to train speech recognition technology to understand people with speech impairments, says Kyndra LoCoco, accessibility partner and community program manager at Google.

Thompson said Champions Place hopes to work with more companies interested in testing products that help people with disabilities gain confidence.

Sarah Grace, a 26-year-old resident, said she likes to try new products.

We go there so we can talk – we know what works and what doesn’t, she said. And get new products for everyone? That’s always good.

No options

Knee said she would probably still be living with her parents or in a mental institution if she couldn’t find a room on Champion Place. There is also the possibility to settle in a nursing home, as some young people have to do.


Residents of Champions prepare a meal together. The kitchen is designed to be accessible for wheelchair users, for example B. With surfaces under which the occupants can roll.


Community champion

Other residencies such as Champions Place are open to people with disabilities who want to live more independently, including the non-profit residency operator Creative Living Inc. Columbus, Ohio. But across the United States, there is a lack of housing for people with physical disabilities, says Heidi Johnson-Wright, a lawyer specializing in compliance with U.S. Disability Act.

The Community Champion Foundation subsidizes approximately 33 percent of the Champion Place’s annual operating costs, ranging from $1,050 to $1,450 per month, depending on the needs of residents, Thompson said. A scholarship program funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation offers an additional 50 percent discount to one-third of residents; without this extra help, these tenants would not be able to afford a room at the Champions Place, he added.

Email Kathy Dayton at [email protected].

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