Sarah: You’re listening to Good Fit Poor Fit. A podcast that explores the interaction between people, design, and activity. Good Fit Poor Fit is part of The Universal Design Project, a nonprofit organization with a vision for every community across the USA to have a surplus of homes and opportunities for social participation that are universally and financially accessible.
[00:00:27] Learn more at universaldesign.org.
[00:00:31] Rebecca: Hi listeners. Welcome back. Today we have another special episode in our new series, UD and me. We’ll be talking to Scott, the Executive Director of The Universal Design Project, but his true claim to fame is being Sarah’s husband, of course. You’ve probably heard us mention Scott on the podcast before, but today we’ll be talking to him about what has led him to the universal design world and what designs really exhilarate him. So without further ado, welcome Scott.
[00:00:59] Sarah: So Scott, I know we know each other really well because we’re married, but can you tell our listeners a little bit about how you came about knowing about universal design and becoming excited about it?
[00:01:13] Scott: The way that I was introduced to it formally was probably through grad school. I was in a program for, for parks and rec management, focusing on therapeutic recreation. So using recreation as a way to help people re-engage in activities and leisure that were meaningful to them prior to some sort of health event or health crisis and using that in a rehabilitative way.
[00:01:36] A lot of our focus in that program was community-based. And so it was trying to figure out how we could work with other service providers in the local community to help provide those recreation or leisure type activities.
[00:01:51] The folks that we were working with the most were with the local Parks and Rec Department and they had a series of programs that were more or less specialized programs. They called them mainstream programs, but it was more or less like here’s what we do for people with disabilities in the community. And so the team that I was working on was focused on what can we do to help create more inclusive programs? So, not programs that are specific for people with disabilities and then everybody else, but what programs can be created that anybody can participate in? And so that was more or less my introduction to universal design, more so from the academic standpoint.
[00:02:34] It’s something that we’ve known about for years, largely because of my spinal cord injury and the life that Sarah and I live with our family, just being able to, participate in different activities that aren’t all specific to people who use wheelchairs or being able to visit friends or go see family members in the places that they live, just really understanding the need for design that really works well for everybody. So some of it was experiential. Some of it was formal education.
[00:03:04] Rebecca: That’s really interesting. I actually didn’t know most of that about your background, starting out in parks and rec in grad school and kind of taking it a step beyond having, you know, as you said, separate programs for people with disabilities, but really turning your eye toward inclusive options and more universally accessible options so that everybody can participate together. I can tell that that’s something that is really meaningful to you both personally and professionally and obviously interests you academically too. So it’s kind of cool to see all of that intersect for you.
[00:03:40] Scott: Yeah, for sure.
[00:03:42] Rebecca: So will you next, please tell us about a universally designed space or product or design or feature that is not home-related, but that you really love?
[00:03:56] Scott: Yeah, I’ll keep playing off of the recreation side of things and kind of look at it from the activity standpoint. I’ll just speak about one of the projects that I did when I was in grad school.
[00:04:06] So, one of our projects was to connect with an actual organization or an actual non-profit and help them write a grant. And so I wrote a grant for an adaptive sports center out in Colorado that helped them fund equipment of four downhill mountain bikes. I want to look at this from the programmatic side.
[00:04:26] And so when we talk about the built environment, you usually look at like, how does the built environment support somebody’s needs, somebody’s success in being able to perform certain activities in the environment. But then when you talk about an activity like mountain biking, you can’t necessarily go and just design a mountain a certain way. So part of what part of what we looked at with that program was what trails are functional for people who are using adaptive bikes.
[00:04:57] And so, where it sounds like this is primarily a “disability” type activity. Really what, what it was looking at was what are the characteristics of a program that anybody can participate in when we’re talking about biking? And so there was this extra component of, of the actual equipment that we use. So what equipment can enable somebody with a mobility limitation to experience the same activity and then what type of trail would support somebody participating successfully?
[00:05:30] Interestingly, It also works well for people who just ride a typical two-wheeled mountain bike. And so the bikes that we, that we ended up purchasing through this grant through this organization, they had four wheels. Somebody sat down on them in like a bucket seat to ride, they fit on a trail that was already in place for people who rode regular mountain bikes as well.
[00:05:54] And so what it did was really demonstrate the ability to recognize that people with disabilities or people with mobility limitations have the opportunity to participate alongside people without mobility impairments.
[00:06:11] We can put this in the show notes, but we have a picture of both Sarah and myself up in the mountains of Colorado and both of us are mountain biking together on this trail that wasn’t designed to be the disability trail. It was wide enough for these adaptive bikes. It was “easy” enough for, for somebody who didn’t have a whole lot of experience to ride it and it just, it worked well for people of all different skill levels, as well as different ability levels to participate in the activity of mountain biking.
[00:06:42] Sarah: Yeah. And I actually thought it was pretty cool because I had really only ridden a bike on flat roads and paved hilly roads, not the mountain.
[00:06:52] And so he was learning how to use this new equipment. I rented a bike and so this was my first time ever doing anything like this. So having a very wide trail that wasn’t, well, some of it was a little technical, but a very wide trail was really helpful for me just doing this the first time for myself.
[00:07:13] And it was cool because we were able to do it together. Because we literally just rode the ski lift up with our bikes, got off at the top of the mountain, and went down. And so it was great for me to learn how to do this right alongside him.
[00:07:26] So, yeah, it’s a great, it’s a great comparison for UD. So now the next question we have for you, Scott is more home-related. Do you have a specific thing or product in the home or feature that is UD that you really love?
[00:07:45] Scott: Yeah. I was thinking about this earlier and my response is actually going to be, it feels like it’s going to be kind of boring. Like normally I would say like, oh, this is a super cool like home automation feature that makes it easier but as somebody who uses a wheelchair on a regular basis, one of the features that just makes the biggest difference for me is being able to access a sink or appliances or something without having to twist my back sideways, just because I have a fair amount of metal in my back due to some spine surgeries.
[00:08:15] Being able to, to access a sink facing it forward just like somebody would if they were standing up using a sink. So whether brushing teeth, doing dishes, washing up in the morning, things like that would probably like, that would probably be my favorite feature in terms of what’s most meaningful to me. So it’s kind of boring, but it makes a big difference. And a lot of people overlook that one.
[00:08:39] Rebecca: Yeah, it’s not boring when it makes such a big difference. I mean, if you think about all of the parts of your day that involve rolling under a sink to brush your teeth in the morning, rolling under a sink to do the dishes, rolling under your countertop, to prep food in the kitchen.
[00:08:55] Like that’s a really huge part of your day. So I don’t think that it’s boring. I think that it’s a really important design element that we’ve been trying I know really hard to incorporate into our universally designed homes. So I think that’s a very, very perfect example of universal design.
[00:09:18] Sarah: It also benefits other people too, not, just someone that you know is sitting in a wheelchair, but someone who just gets fatigued and wants to sit down or a kid that wants to pull up a chair and stand by the counter to help work on stuff. So yeah, I think it benefits a lot of different people.
[00:09:35] Rebecca: Absolutely. I agree. So Scott, thank you so much for joining us for this second installment in our new series, UD and me. I know that Sarah might not have learned anything new in this conversation, but I certainly did. So I appreciate your insight and your thoughts and sharing a little bit about your UD origin story with us. So thank you.
[00:10:00] Scott: Yeah, absolutely. And happy to do it again if you want to explore some other topics.
[00:10:05] Rebecca: Awesome. And thank you listeners for tuning in. We hope you’re staying safe and well, and we’ll talk to you real soon.
[00:10:13] Sarah: Thanks for listening to Good Fit Poor Fit. I’m your host Sarah Pruett, Program Director and Occupational Therapist at The Universal Design Project. Learn more about our work at universaldesign.org, and find more episodes and links to subscribe at goodfitpoorfit.com. If you have questions or topics you’d like to discuss, email us at [email protected]
[00:10:37] Thanks for fitting us into your day!