Design Innovation Program Wins Grant from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

United Cerebral Palsy’s Life Labs to Take Universal Design Thinking to Apple’s iTunes U

Washington, D.C. (January 20, 2015) – United Cerebral Palsy’s (UCP) Life Labs initiative was  awarded a significant grant from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. The grant will help fund a unique new approach to fostering innovation in design and technology for people with and without disabilities.

The project embraces the principles of Universal Design, which strives to create products and environments that are inherently usable and accessible to all people, including people with disabilities. It will deliver an open-source event toolkit and a full curriculum built around UCP Life Labs “maker fair” event concept and distributed through Apple’s iTunes U. UCP is one of less than 100 nonprofit partners – and the only disability organization – curated by iTunes U for educational materials offered to more than 250,000 students.

UCP’s Life Labs held a small-scale version of the event in Washington, D.C. in each of the past two years, bringing together people with disabilities, inventors, hackers and other innovators with and without disabilities. In a friendly competition, attendees developed ideas for revolutionary products and services using a Universal Design approach. With input from mentors with disabilities, team members collaborated to create workable solutions for everyday problems that they then pitched to judges in an atmosphere similar to the hit TV show “Shark Tank.”

“It’s time to take this to the next level,” said Marc Irlandez, director of UCP’s Life Labs. “We were looking for a way to bring the event to a greater number of people in more locations. Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation saw the possibilities and iTunes U was the perfect platform to help make sure that anyone who wants to learn how to make the world a better place through Universal Design can do so.”

“By providing opportunities for people with and without disabilities to work together with industry leaders in a creative way to design accessible consumer products, this project not only exposes students to careers in science and technology, but it also helps raise the awareness of the capabilities of people with disabilities,” said Kevin R. Webb, senior director, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. “Ultimately, it will help empower youth with disabilities to make changes for the better in society, which is the mission of our Foundation, and why Mitsubishi Electric is proud to provide support to help replicate and expand this innovative project.”

The initial goal of the materials to be made available via iTunes U is to introduce college-age students to the concept of Universal Design and inspire innovation. Eventually, other materials will be developed as part of a school’s STEM lessons that K-12 learners can adopt.

“It’s significant that a large national nonprofit such as UCP is able to work with a recognized brand as iTunes and be supported by such a well-known foundation as Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation,” said Stephen Bennett, president and CEO of UCP. “With this level of credibility and this unique learning platform, this project is bound to bridge the gap between designers and engineers and people with disabilities, to the collective benefit of us all.”

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About United Cerebral Palsy
United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) educates, advocates and provides support services through an affiliate network to ensure a life without limits for people with a broad range of disabilities and their families. Together with nearly 100 affiliates, UCP has a mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people with disabilities by supporting more than 176,000 children and adults every day—one person at a time, one family at a time. UCP works to enact real change—to revolutionize care, raise standards of living and create opportunities—impacting the lives of millions living with disabilities. For more than 60 years, UCP has worked to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in every facet of society. Together, with parents and caregivers, UCP will continue to push for the social, legal and technological changes that increase accessibility and independence, allowing people with disabilities to dream their own dreams, for the next 60 years, and beyond. For more information, visit

About Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, based in the Washington, DC area, was established in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and the Mitsubishi Electric U.S. companies, which produce, sell and distribute a wide range of consumer, industrial, commercial and professional electronics products. The Foundation has contributed more than $13 million to organizations that are empowering young people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and productive lives.

To learn more, visit the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s website at