Three Young Designers Win by Highlighting Awareness of Employment for People with Autism
As the second annual Easter Seals Sketch-A-Space competition wraps up, Easter Seals and Google SketchUp are excited to announce the winners of this year's contest.
The Sketch-A-Space competition offered an opportunity for people with autism, as well as those interested in autism, to win $3,000 and improve their resume and employment portfolio. Google's 3-D modeling software, SketchUp, is very popular among people with autism, many of whom are visually and spatially gifted and especially adept at creating 3-D models. Capitalizing on strengths with SketchUp is one way to make meaningful employment a reality for people with autism and other disabilities.
The Votes Are InEntries for the competition were due in late January, and a panel of judges chose three finalists. The finalists were chosen based on the designers' attention to unique needs of people with autism, eye for design and creativity, and proficiency with the SketchUp software. The finalists' designs were placed on the Easter Seals website for a public vote. Hundreds of people expressed their opinion, and a design entitled "Interior Designer's Studio Office" was deemed the winner.
Kala Letts, Alexandria, Va., creator of "Interior Designer's Studio Office," was awarded $3,000 for her design. Letts, a recent graduate of the Virginia Tech Interior Design program, works for Purple Cherry Architecture. The company specializes in designing for people with special needs, including individuals with autism. Some of Letts' projects include assisting with a group home for adults with special needs, a school for K-12 children with high functioning disabilities and an article on how to set up a standard bedroom to home-school a child on the spectrum.
"My dream is to make 'evidence based design' a household name," Letts says. "I believe that research and design can come together to create better environments for everyone, especially in the workplace, healthcare facilities, schools, and the homes of those with disabilities."
Clay Damron, a high school junior from Austin, Texas, was awarded $1,500 for his design. His design entitled "Architect's Playground" came in at second place. The third place prize of $500 was given to Jonathan Anderson, Minnetonka, Minn., for his design entitled "Cabin Amongst the Ruins."
"Google SketchUp helps individuals express and reach out beyond themselves," said Daniel Tal, one judge of this year's Sketch-A-Space contest. "The capacity to think and see in 3-D and have an intrinsic perception of space, depth and dimension that some individuals with autism have is such a unique strength and it's cool to see how the SketchUp software and this contest can tap into that."
Partnering with Google SketchUpEaster Seals recognizes the need for increased awareness for individuals with autism in the employment sector. Sadly, employment rates for individuals with autism are astonishingly low. Easter Seals and Google SketchUp teamed up to shed light on this issue and show that individuals with autism can be productive, working members of society when they are placed with the right job.
"Easter Seals Sketch-A-Space contest aims to raise autism awareness and increase community understanding that individuals with autism can be successful in the working world when they have access to the supports they need and find the right job match," says Tom Wyman, manager of business development, Google.
Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, national director, autism services, Easter Seals, was pleased with the results of this year's contest. "This year's Sketch-A-Space provided a wonderful opportunity to increase SketchUp users' awareness about autism," says Wright. "Many of our entrants shared that Sketch-A-Space provided them an opportunity to learn about autism, specifically autism and employment. Easter Seals strongly believes that the unemployment rate for individuals with autism is too high. Sketch-A-Space educated the design community about autism and raised awareness about employment and autism."
Easter Seals Sketch-A-Space Competition and Google's Project Spectrum are working together to share that individuals with autism can result in gainful employment when their strengths are highlighted.
"Google SketchUp has been a fantastic collaborator on Sketch-A-Space," Wright says. "Project Spectrum already demonstrated that SketchUp is a great match for individuals with autism. Sketch-A-Space simply provides an opportunity for those with autism to shine."
For more about Easter Seals Sketch-A-Space contest, visit www.easterseals.com/sketchaspace.