Elise Roy: Advocate and Design Thinker

Rheannon Ketover

Title: Accessibility Hero Spotlight: Elise Roy. Below is a portrait of Elise looking off to the left. Her fingers are crossed.
Title: Accessibility Hero Spotlight: Elise Roy. Below is a portrait of Elise looking off to the left. Her fingers are crossed.

"When we design for disability first, you often stumble upon solutions that are better than those when we design for the norm." - Elise Roy

Elise Roy's journey is one of empowerment, innovation, and unyielding advocacy. A deaf human-centered designer, former lawyer, and captivating public speaker, Elise has positioned herself at the forefront of the disruptive innovation movement. Her unwavering dedication to creating an inclusive world through design has ignited conversations that challenge conventional norms and reshape perceptions.

  • Designing for Diversity

Elise's advocacy is rooted in her belief that designing for disability often leads to solutions that surpass those designed for the norm. With a powerful voice and exceptional communication skills, she has delivered impactful talks for groups such as Google, Microsoft, the United Nations, and the World Bank. Her TEDx talk, "When We Design for Disability, We All Benefit," garnered over 1 million views in less than three months after headlining TED.com.

  • A Journey of Adaptation and Empowerment

Elise inexplicably lost her hearing at age 10. Her journey has been and continues to be one of continuous adaptation and empowerment. From excelling as a Division I athlete in soccer and lacrosse to advocating for real-time captioning in classrooms, Elise has transformed challenges into opportunities. At Brown University, where she earned recognition as an elite soccer goalkeeper (she says her deafness benefited her at this position as she had greater visual awareness), she orchestrated efforts to secure crucial real-time captioning, ensuring her active participation in academia.

  • Empowering Through Law and Advocacy

Elise's journey led her to law school at Northeastern University, where she became involved in LGBTQ+ rights advocacy. Her dedication was rewarded with the Georgetown University Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship, a prestigious accolade shared with the likes of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While in law school, Elise played a pivotal role in the creation of the International Disability Rights Treaty at the United Nations, a landmark human rights achievement ratified by over 155 countries. After the treaty was signed in 2007, she traveled to Southeast Asia, the Gulf region, and Africa to see it put into action.

  • Shaping the Future through Design

Elise's deafness propelled her towards human-centered design studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Social Design program. Her master's thesis focused on the barriers faced by individuals with hearing loss in fabrication technology and design. This research exemplifies her commitment to exploring innovative solutions that bridge the accessibility gap.

  • From Vision to Action: Elise Roy & Associates

In 2016, Elise founded Elise Roy & Associates, a social enterprise dedicated to analyzing problems through the lens of individuals with disabilities. Her firm operates under the principle that designing for extremes yields superior solutions. Elise Roy & Associates boasts a client roster that includes the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and various tech companies. Elise's insights have resonated globally, as she continues to deliver transformative talks for organizations like Microsoft, NASA, and AIGA.

  • A Legacy of Empowerment and Change

Elise Roy's journey is one of resilience, empowerment, and innovation. Through her work, she has shattered barriers, sparked conversations, and initiated change on a global scale. Her vision of a world where design celebrates diversity and inclusivity continues to inspire individuals, industries, and communities worldwide.

As we celebrate Elise Roy's remarkable achievements, let her story serve as a reminder that we all have a role to play in creating an inclusive world. Let us embrace accessibility as a core value in our content, just as she has in her design philosophy. By making our content accessible, we empower individuals of all abilities to fully engage, learn, and enjoy. Moreover, let us invite individuals with disabilities to offer their insights, as their unique life experiences can power innovative thought and drive positive transformation.

Together, we can ensure that our digital landscape reflects the diversity of our society, one thoughtful design choice at a time.

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