Living Independently with Autism


Collaborative Team: Roxie Reeves, Ray Tolbert, Sean Banks, Danielle Young, & myself. 

My role entailed research, experience design, visual design, and prototypes.

Created as part of my Master of Science degree in Experience Design at the VCU Brandcenter.



The ask:

Empower and incentivize the Richmond Community to rally behind autism.


Our primary research helped us gain perspective on education and support for families and those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

We conducted interviews with special needs teachers and administration for both children and adults.

As for secondary research, we gathered and read a copious amount of literature and viewed documentaries focused on the lives of those with ASD.


Our Research Pointed to a National Problem

Half a million people with autism will age out in the next ten years.

This means they are no longer afforded government support for their treatment and are left to the care of their parents or caregiver or a group home- subsidized by parents. 

The transition into career opportunities is a challenging one, with many employers lacking education on ASD employment.

There isn't a single entity to handle this transition for either party- employers or ASD families. 


Other Obstacles

Secondary Research Highlights


Many employers lacked education on ASD employment.

There wasn't a single entity to provide work transition assistance for businesses and people with ASD.

As stated in the Non-Profit Quagmire,

"Unemployment rate is at ~80% for adults with autism; primary problem is they have no idea where the jobs are and non-profits don't pool resources." 


Positive Findings

Secondary Research Highlights


According to Autism Speaks Family Services Employee Toolkit:

92% of Americans had a positive view and favor companies hiring the disabled.

And 87% preferred to give their business to those who do.

People with disabilities are just as productive as their non-disabled peers with absenteeism rates lower than or equal to others.

People with disabilities are creative, talented, and innovative.

Employers of those with disabled employees have seen a positive impact on morale, retention, and corporate culture. 


The Solution


A staffing agency and consultancy ready to shift the Richmond, Virginia community and support those living with autism spectrum disorder. 

It will serve as an aggregator of local businesses who hire those with autism spectrum disorder.

In addition, Shift RVA will act as a consultancy for business owners for support in design and operational best practices on how to better cater to people hypersensitive to sensory stimuli.


And like any other business, Shift RVA needed a website.



However, the website's visual and interaction design needed careful consideration for those with hypersensitivity to stimuli.

Design Principles & Constraints


1. Use clear and simple language for website's content. 

2. Foreground and background colors must have a sufficient contrast.

3. Avoid all movement of buttons and content.

4. Use simple and clear fonts.

5. Simplify amount of content per page.  

6. For navigation, have no more than three clicks to get to a specific page.

7. Use muted colors.

8. Use patterns and simple shapes as cues.

Shift RVA was a master's degree student project at VCU Brandcenter.

Therefore, our initial testing of the concept and design was in a classroom setting in front of peers and professors. 

Here are a few of their comments:

“Talk about a great freakin’ project. Thoughtful, straight-forward. Doesn’t suffer from an invisible goal. The design of the ads and website should win an award or a bunch of awards”.

“Awesome how the autism group accounted for how certain designs and colors affect autistic people and integrated that into the design of their website.”

“Shift RVA was actually the most touching and streamlined. It could really be implemented tomorrow. I loved that they changed the language of “autistic adults to “adults with autism”. Excellent portfolio piece.”


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