017: What is it like interning with us?

Good Fit Poor Fit
Good Fit Poor Fit
017: What is it like interning with us?

Show Notes

For her final capstone project, Kati Richardson had to complete a poster presentation summarizing her time spent at our organization. Here’s the finished product!


[00:00:31] Kati: Hey everyone! It’s Kati and welcome back to another episode of Good Fit Poor Fit. If you’ve been listening to this podcast, then you probably know that I have been a guest on many of these episodes. But for those of you listening that don’t know me, I’d like to formally introduce myself. My name is Kaitlyn Richardson, but I go by my nickname Kati, and I am a third-year doctor of occupational therapy student at Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences at Mary Baldwin University.

[00:01:00] Over the past 14 weeks, I have been completing my doctoral experiential component, or DEC, with The Universal Design Project. And really quick, I just wanted to define the DEC for you in case you’ve never heard of that before. The DEC is an experience where doctor of occupational therapy students gain advanced skills that are beyond the generalist level. And through my doctoral project, I am gaining advanced skills in leadership and advocacy. 

[00:01:33] So in the OTD program at Murphy Deming, we complete two years of didactic coursework, and then in our final year, which is year three, we go out on two-level two fieldworks, each fieldwork is 12 weeks long, and then we complete a 16 week DEC. However, this year because of the Coronavirus outbreak, our DEC projects were shortened to 14 weeks. So I am currently in my last week of my project and I wanted to record one last podcast episode to kind of fill you in on all the work that I’ve done and explain how my outcomes have contributed to the advancement of not only the occupational therapy profession but my skills as a future occupational therapist. And the most logical way for me to present this information to you is basically to just present my professional poster. Because at the completion of our DECs, we have to write a portfolio and then we have to design a professional poster.

[00:02:35] And I don’t want to bore you with my portfolio because it’s an incredibly long written document that pretty much explains the purpose of the DEC, and it has a lengthy literature review, and then I have to describe my outcomes, and then I give a reflection at the end. But the professional poster is basically saying everything my portfolio says but in a much more condensed, organized, and succinct way. So I figured I would just record myself presenting it but with more of a casual twist.  And I will also include a copy of my poster in the show notes of this episode so that if you would like to see it, it’ll be there for you.

[00:03:13] It’s actually pretty cool that I have the opportunity to record my poster presentation as a podcast episode because it gives me good practice for when I have to present this formally to my faculty. Normally we would have to go back to campus, print out our posters, dress up professionally, and we’d all meet and put our posters on easels and we’d stand by it, and one by one, we’d have to present our posters to our faculty, but that won’t be happening this year because of the coronavirus. So we are actually doing our formal poster presentations virtually. So this kind of gives me good practice for that. 

[00:03:51 ]But yeah, so let’s go ahead and get into it. 

[00:03:55] I first want to talk about my site and my mentors. As you already know, I have been working with The Universal Design Project and they are a nonprofit organization out of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and they were founded in 2016. Their mission is to provide the easiest way for communities to implement universal design in areas not regulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. Their overarching goal is to facilitate interprofessional collaboration between healthcare professionals, design professionals, and design advisors to create universally designed housing plans and this all occurs remotely. This site is the ideal setting for understanding occupational therapy’s role in universal design and gaining those advanced skills in advocacy and leadership. And my site mentors are actually the founders of The UD Project, and they are Sarah and Scott Pruett. 

[00:04:49] That was a pretty quick rundown of the site and my mentors, but if you’d like to learn more about their organization, check out universaldesign.org. 

[00:04:58] Next, I’d like to quickly summarize my literature review. So the supporting literature states that universal design or UD is design that’s usable by all people to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation or specialization. The research suggests that concepts of universal design and occupational therapy be used collaboratively to create functional home environments for populations such as people with complex disabilities and the aging population. The research also states that OTs are uniquely qualified to contribute to the successful implementation of universal design because they are able to consider the abilities and needs of all people. The research also suggests that we use the Person-Environment-Occupation Model or the PEO Model, to guide home design for optimal occupational performance. And then lastly, it was found in the research that digital marketing on social media is an effective way of raising awareness of nonprofit organizations. 

[00:06:01] So again, that was a quick rundown of the literature. I will also put my references in the show notes of this episode so that you can see them if you’d like, but on my poster, there’s actually a QR code available that you can scan and it takes you right to a Google doc of my references. So that was pretty cool. 

[00:06:19] Now that we’ve reviewed my DEC site, my mentors, and my literature review, let’s move on to talk about what I actually did for The Universal Design Project.

[00:06:29] So during week one, Sarah, Scott, and I sat down and talked about how I could help their organization and complete a project that was centered around OT and helped me to advance my skills beyond the generalist level. I was very interested in helping them market themselves because, you know, they’re a small nonprofit and I wanted more people to be aware of their organization and what they were doing. 

[00:06:53] I also wanted more people to be aware of OT’s role in universal design in general because that’s a very unique practice area for OTs. And so I wanted that to be kind of on the forefront of this project. I was also willing to help out the organization in any other way that they needed. 

[00:07:10] So from that conversation and based on my interests and their needs, I developed three objectives for this project, which were 

– To implement innovative marketing techniques to increase public awareness of The Universal Design Project, 

– To increase stakeholder participation in The Universal Design Project’s, collaborative design process, and 

– To share in-depth knowledge about universal design features as they relate to the home environment.

[00:07:38] So for objective number one, they wanted my help with marketing. And at this time they were actually in the process of revamping their website. So we thought it would be a perfect fit if I could develop content for their website and for their social media accounts that would advocate for their nonprofit and express the idea that successful universal design happens when health professionals, design professionals and people with disabilities or design advisors all come together and collaborate. 

[00:08:09] So over the course of 14 weeks, I was able to create a lot of content for them. This digital content was in the form of blog posts, podcast episodes, and infographics.

[00:08:21] So let’s do a quick recap of my blog posts. I was able to write five of these blog posts or journal entries or whatever you’d like to call them, and they were published to universaldesign.org and all of the social media platforms. And the topics of these posts ranged from my family’s personal experience with living in a home that wasn’t accessible to OT’s role in housing, to smart home technology. I was also able to write a post about my doctoral project when it was at the beginning stages. And then I also wrote a blog post that explained an infographic that I had created that depicts all the human impairments that The Universal Design Project considers during their collaborative design process.

[00:09:05] So if you’re interested in reading any of those blog posts, head over to universal design.org and you can find them there. 

[00:09:12] Next, let’s talk about the Good Fit Poor Fit podcast.  So before I started my project, the Good Fit Poor Fit podcast did not exist. But Sarah, Scott, and I kind of had this realization that it might be a lot easier to convey our thoughts and ideas surrounding universal design if we could just talk about it and talk through it and then record it versus writing a million articles or journals and then having to edit those, which takes quite a bit longer.

[00:09:39] So Scott pioneered this idea and got it up and running, and then Sarah and I would brainstorm different topics for each episode and then we would get together and we tried to record one to two episodes per week, and then I learned how to edit them. And then once the media and the text was edited, Sarah and Scott would publish the final episode to the website, Spotify, iTunes, and other platforms.

[00:10:03] So up to this point, we have actually published 17 episodes. This is episode number 17. Which is pretty spectacular considering a few months ago this didn’t exist and we didn’t know the first thing about making a podcast, but it all came together very nicely and I’m proud of this component of my project.

[00:10:24] And in recent years, I feel like podcasts have gained a lot of popularity and have really taken off. So I felt like creating a podcast was an awesome way for people to learn more about universal design, promote the organization and just teach people that there are certain features that will enable a good fit for people in their home environments. 

[00:10:46] And you’ll notice that each episode relates to an environment either being a good fit or a poor fit for someone when completing their occupations. And this relates to the PEO model, which says that there must be a harmonious fit between a person, their environment, and their occupation in order to achieve occupational performance. And that’s what this podcast explores, is the interaction between people, design, and activity.

[00:11:10] So lastly, I created quite a few infographics. I think it was somewhere around 10 and most of these infographics depicted shocking statistics related to America’s accessible housing problem. And these were made to educate the public about the issue of inaccessible housing in our country and how there’s a huge need for accessibility in the housing market. I also used these infographics to convey that this organization has a unique focus in that they try to facilitate interprofessional collaboration to achieve universal design. And these infographics also highlighted OT’s role in that process. And then some of the infographics actually would support or supplement the blog posts that I wrote, and I created a few featured images for each blog post too so that it would make it a little more enticing for people to read.

[00:12:03] So that kind of summarizes all the social media and digital marketing content that I was able to produce for my project. On my poster, I wrote that through the utilization of digital marketing, I was able to advocate for occupational therapy’s a role in the niche of universal design. I was also able to increase public and stakeholder awareness of the organization. I was able to explain the organization’s mission, vision, and their unique collaborative process.  I was able to educate the public and stakeholders on various universal design features and their implications. I was able to advocate for interprofessional collaboration between OTs, design professionals, and people with unique personal experience with disability. I was able to facilitate participation within the design advisor group utilizing email surveys, which I’ll get to next. I was able to promote the Good Fit Poor Fit podcast which highlights the PEO model, and then I was also able to depict shocking statistics related to accessible housing in America.

[00:13:07] Now, before we move on to talk about how I achieved my second objective, I just wanted to mention that I did have plans to network and market universal design at the AOTA conference or the American Occupational Therapy Association Conference that was going to be in Boston this year, but it was canceled due to the Coronavirus so unfortunately, I was not able to do that, but I would have loved to had I had the chance. 

[00:13:32] So next, let’s talk about my second objective, which was to increase stakeholder participation in The Universal Design Project’s collaborative design process. So the stakeholders that we’re focused on here are the design advisors.

[00:13:46] So to increase the participation of our design advisor group, we created surveys that we sent out via email with a link that led them to the survey. And these surveys helped us to understand if the pictures that pop up on Google when someone searches for the term universal design are actually universal design. 

[00:14:04] So I spent many hours searching the web for pictures that were associated with the key term universal design, or accessible home or accessible kitchen, accessible bathroom and so on because it’s likely that builders or architects are seeing these same images when they do a Google search, and they might assume that that design and the picture works well for everyone and then run with it. And that might not be the best idea. And we wanted to see what our design advisors thought about those pictures. So we created a couple of surveys with the pictures included and asked them if it would work well for them or if it wouldn’t work at all, or if it could be better. And then we analyzed their responses, categorized them, and then Sarah and I would talk through it on a podcast episode. If you haven’t listened to those episodes yet, be sure to, because you can get really good insight on people’s different perspectives.

[00:14:57] But overall, it was a neat way to increase our volunteer’s involvement in the organization while highlighting that what you see on Google might not necessarily be universal design so you have to be careful. 

[00:15:09] Another way that I helped The Universal Design Project was by trying to increase the diversity of the design advisor group. Sarah and Scott really wanted their volunteer group to be full of people with a lot of different abilities and many different diagnoses so that many, many different human impairments were represented within the group. So that when we did receive feedback from them, we’re receiving feedback from many different people’s perspectives and we know whether or not the designs are going to work for them. Because if the designs will work for that many different people, we conclude that our designs are universal.

[00:15:45] So I decided to make a Call to Action video asking for more people to apply to volunteer for our organization. So I wrote up a script, I memorized it or tried to at least, then we set up a camera and I recorded myself. I then edited the video, added in some background music, and then we published it to YouTube. And since it’s been uploaded, it’s received over a hundred views, which I’m pretty proud of. We also posted this video to our website, to our social media pages, and in over 15 Facebook groups whose members are all people with varying disabilities in an effort to attract them to volunteer for our organization. As much as I was out of my comfort zone creating this video, it was a fun project to do and I’m pretty proud of it. 

[00:16:35] Lastly, to achieve my third objective, which was to share in-depth knowledge about universal design features as they relate to the home environment, I created two documents that will likely be used by The UD Project in the development of a future demonstration home. So Sarah and Scott have a future goal of using their design plans to construct a universally-designed home. Their thought is what if a home was already designed and people in the community could go in and tour it and touch or try out the features? So they hope that one day they’re able to build a home that consumers can go and tour and building professionals and healthcare professionals can come and learn about universal design features and experience them firsthand. 

[00:17:23] So I was tasked with creating a guideline of sorts for an experiential learning program that would take place at this demonstration home if it were to be built in the future. So this is all still just an idea at this point, but they wanted some help to kind of get this idea laid out on paper, so I created an outline for how the tours would look and what experiential education activities would take place to help people understand how universal design can benefit all people. Not just those with disabilities or those in wheelchairs, but everyone.

[00:17:58] And that led me to also create a document that contains information about the house and the implications of the universal design features. And that will serve as supplemental educational material that could be used during these programs and during the tours in this future home when it is eventually built.

[00:18:19] So lastly, I just wanted to reflect on how this project has helped me grow as an OT and helped me gain the advanced skills of leadership and advocacy. So after the completion of this DEC,  I have gained a deeper understanding of universal design and the impact a home environment can have on someone’s occupational performance. And you know, this will enable me to offer my clients more detailed recommendations to make their living spaces more functional when I’m doing discharge planning and when I’m doing home evaluations in the future. And this ultimately maximizes their occupational performance so this will definitely help me in my clinical practice as an OT in the future.

[00:18:59] This experience has also enhanced my leadership and advocacy skills because I was able to market and promote a nonprofit organization that values interprofessional collaboration to make communities more welcoming to people affected by disability and promote OTs involvement in that. My communication skills have also improved because I’ve had to write succinct and informative content and my competence in working remotely has also improved. I had to establish good time management skills and a routine since I was mostly working from coffee shops and libraries, and most recently my house since the structure of the organization is remote. So that was a challenge at first, but I got comfortable with working remotely and I’m proud to have that experience under my belt. And overall, I’m just proud that this project has advocated for occupational therapy’s role in universal design because it is a very unique practice area, and I’m excited that I’ve been able to advance this within the OT profession. 

[00:19:59] So to wrap this up, I just wanted to thank Scott and Sarah for mentoring me throughout these 14 weeks. I am so appreciative of everything you have done for me and how accommodating you have been throughout all of the changes that were induced by the COVID19 outbreak. I feel like I’ve learned so much from you and it goes far beyond universal design, so thank you. 

[00:20:20] I also wanted to thank my faculty advisor, Dr. Lisa Burns, for supporting me throughout this entire process and for being so enthusiastic about all the content that I created. You really made me feel like what I was doing was important. So thank you so much, Dr. Burns. 

[00:20:37] I hope you all have gained some insight about my doctoral project and I hope you tune into future podcasts episodes to learn more about universal design and the importance of collaboration.

[00:20:47] Hope you have a great day. Bye.


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