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i+s Goes Live with Hendrick and Hightower

March 22, 2023
Hendrick Principal Jennifer Treter and Hightower CEO Natalie Hartkopf talk women leaders and inclusive design with Editor in Chief AnnMarie Martin on Instagram.

In celebration of Women’s History Month AND National Disabilities Awareness month we hopped on Instagram for a live chat with Jennifer Treter (principal of Hendrick) and Natalie Hartkopf, (co-founder and CEO of Hightower) – two executives who paved their way to the top of the industry and are helping evolve our vantage point on getting spaces from (just) accessible to fully inclusive.

Treter read the University at Buffalo Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access’ (IDeA Center) definition of Universal Design: “a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness and social participation.”

As more and more clients begin to request universal design specialists as dedicated team members on their projects, the IDeA Center is just one of the resources the women credited as helping them provide spaces that offer a more open design framework for the ableness of individuals within an organization to change and shift. Hartkopf identified LaVant Consulting, a communications firm dedicated to shaping the way the world reaches, views and values people with disabilities. Both organizations provide trainings and services surrounding the topic.

“I think we can do a much better job in engaging disability advocates like this earlier on,” Hartkopf said, as Hightower is making efforts to bring these voices in earlier in their product development process. “We want to make sure our products are more accessible by default and aren’t more expensive or have longer lead times because of it.

Treter also referenced Mentra, a platform that matches neurodiverse individuals with employers that value their strengths, founded by Jhillika Kumar and Conner Reinhardt in 2019. Kumar is the sister of a non-speaking autistic individual, and is a testament to the importance of bringing in perspectives of those who live the experience either themselves or quite closely, as she did. Mentra will partner with a variety of organizations on their quest to better place neurodivergent talent.

To hear more of what they had to say, visit our Instagram page’s highlight reel where the full video is available with captions. And be sure to check back on Friday as our “firsts” keep on coming! Our 2023 takeovers will kick off with Studio Heimat—a San Francisco-based interior design studio creating space for what matters. Founders Alicia Cheung Lichtenstein and Eva Bradley will be taking over our Instagram page on March 24, so be sure to follow along in our stories to get a glimpse into their process.

Please contact Editor in Chief AnnMarie Martin at [email protected] if you are interested in participating in an IG Live chat or a takeover similar to the ones you are enjoying this week.

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