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: Hey there, Good Fit Poor Fit listeners. We’re back for another episode in our mini series, UD and Me. Short chats with our peers and peeps in the universal design world to see how they came to this work and what really inspires them. Today, we have the pleasure of chatting with Hannah Pugh, who lives in Chicago.
[00:00:49] Hannah is currently a full-time occupational therapist. But she’s begun to make her way into the UX research and design world. Freelancing with a number of companies, including us. She recently helped us rework some internal processes using her OT and UX lenses. And we are thrilled to have her here today.
[00:01:08] Hannah: Thank you for that kind introduction. I’m really happy to be here.
[00:01:13] Sarah: Yes, we are super excited to have you here. And we really wanted to ask you what brought you into universal design or even thinking about combining OT and user experience.
[00:01:29] Hannah: Yeah. So for me, I think I first heard the idea of universal design when I was in grad school for occupational therapy.
[00:01:37] And I think, in that setting, it was kind of just this idea. This idea of something that would be so great to have implemented, but it was kind of intangible. And then when I started working as an occupational therapist, it kind of was that, especially when I was working on the inpatient rehab unit and I’d be working with patients and we’re always trying to come up with ideas or how we are gonna solve these barriers. Whether it be like a patient in wheelchair, trying to figure out how they’re going to get into the bathroom or a kid trying to figure out how they’re going to play on the playground. And I felt like it was always this physical barrier that we were trying to fight kind of to overcome, to get to what would be inclusively designed for this patient.
[00:02:24] So then over the past year or so, I’ve kind of gotten more involved in this user experience or UX design, which if you don’t know what that is, it’s kind of a broad term generally speaking, but essentially what it is is that you are designing something and it could be a physical experience, it could be a digital product, it could be a website. But as you’re designing it, you are going through this process that you’re trying to design for this end user group. So while being involved in this space, I kind of realized that those physical barriers exist. Yes. But there’s also these barriers that are on the internet or in these web spaces that also exist.
[00:03:06] So I just realized that, you know, being an occupational therapist and trying to make things accessible for people and then working in the digital space, I just realized that there’s this disconnect. And in the digital space, it’s a lot harder to see these problems versus in the physical space. So that’s kind of how I got involved and, you know, I’m still progressing through it.
[00:03:30] Rebecca: That’s really interesting. I like the way that you contrasted the physical barriers that you were experiencing through your clients as an occupational therapist, but how that led to your curiosity about the barriers in the online and the virtual environments.
[00:03:46] And I think that that’s so timely, especially in the world that we live in today, that you are getting into the type of work where you are considering those barriers in a virtual context. And how can you break them down? Because like you said, are, they’re not visible. You can’t experience them in the same way that you can experience a door not being “openable” by a certain person or a toilet being too low or too high or something like that. So I had never thought of it in that way, but I really appreciate you offering that perspective. So thank you.
[00:04:23] Hannah: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that was kind of what piqued my interest a little bit. I was interested in UX design and it wasn’t this COVID world that I kind of got immersed in it.
[00:04:33] And as I started working in UX work, I realized that that’s something that a lot of people who are already working in that space didn’t really know about, and they didn’t really have like the OT or like that holistic mindset to kind of approach problems and think about those people who would have difficulty using it.
[00:04:49] So it’s definitely a cool interaction and a cool way to use my OT brain, but bringing it into this new space.
[00:04:58] Rebecca: Yes. And as you know, we love that perspective around here, bringing that OT lens into a new space.
[00:05:04] Hannah: Yes, absolutely.
[00:05:07] Sarah: Yeah. And I think even what you worked on with our organization already. Hannah’s been working on some internal processes with our Design Advisors, which is our volunteer group, but we are really trying to find ways to present home plans and different ways for our design advisers to give feedback in some of the work that we’re doing.
[00:05:26] And so, just some minor changes with Hannah’s ideas. And, you know, I think it’s been so helpful in the way we present our information to people to get the information that we need to make a difference in the designs that we make. So it could be from what we put on the screen to giving different updates in different ways.
[00:05:47] So it’s been fabulous. And so I think OT and user experience are definitely a good combination.
[00:05:53] Rebecca: I agree. So Hannah, shifting gears a little bit. Can you tell us your favorite non home-related universal design feature or place or idea or product, whatever floats your universal design boat?
[00:06:12] Hannah: Yeah. So I actually had a little bit of trouble thinking about this, but what initially came to mind, I don’t know if this is necessarily my favorite, but it’s something that I use all the time and it makes such a big difference. And so when you’re designing something in the web space or the digital space, there’s these standards that you have to use, and those are called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
[00:06:35] And those just kind of give you guidelines or standards of practice and there’s different levels. And in order to meet those standards, you have to make sure that your website does all these things, and it’s a pretty hefty document document, and there’s a lot of things, but one of the standards is called color contrast. In an order to check if the colors that you’re using are within this color contrast ratio, you use this feature of this website, and it’s literally called the color contrast checker. And it’s just a website that you go to and you plug in the color codes of the two colors that you’re using and it spits out this ratio. Then you take that ratio and you compare it, make sure that it’s high enough so that the contrast between these two colors would be able to be seen with people with low vision or visual impairments.
[00:07:22] And I just think it’s so cool. Because I use it all the time and it’s just such a simple thing that can make sure that your product is going to be available to so many people who have visual impairments or are low vision. But it’s so easy to do, but it makes such a huge difference and if you don’t do it, then there’s this huge group of people that might not be able to use your product or might not be able to interact with your website or they might miss those air messages that are popping up and they might not be able to successfully complete the tasks that you are asking.
[00:07:54] So it’s just something that’s so small, but it makes such a big difference. And if it’s not done, then you might not be able to even use the product to begin with.
[00:08:05] Sarah: That’s actually really cool. I don’t think a lot of people really think about that because I mean, there are some websites that you go to and it’s just so busy or there’s so many colors.
[00:08:15] And that’s overwhelming for me. And I don’t have extreme low vision or anything like that. And so just to know that there’s a resource like that for anyone that’s working on making their website more accessible in that way. That’s just really cool to know that that’s out there. And, even in some of the work that we’ve done, just a simple color contrast really does alert people there’s something to take note of. So that’s a really great non-home home-related UD feature that’s in the web space that people don’t think about quite often.
[00:08:46] But now let’s jump into the home. And Hannah, do you have a favorite home-related UD feature that you’d like to chat about?
[00:08:55] Hannah: Yeah. So in the home, I’m really big into the smart home technology. Just cause I think it’s so cool. I love that there’s this new stuff that you can use it for so many different things. So my favorite product is the Amazon Alexa. And I just think maybe it’s my favorite because I’m biased and I have one and I use it all the time.
[00:09:16] But for me, I use it for leisure. Like I listen to podcasts or music or an audio book or whatever. But I think that what is so cool about it is that it can be used for so many different things. And if you think about it, maybe an older adult who has a memory impairment, it can remind them to take their medication. Or maybe someone with an upper extremity weakness or an upper extremity deficit, you can set it up so that it controls your light switches.
[00:09:46] So you don’t have to reach for the light switch. And it’s just so versatile that I think that’s my personal favorite.
[00:09:55] Rebecca: I can totally see what you’re saying about the versatility of the Amazon Alexa, because I learned about it. I know about it, but I learned about it more in a recent project that I’m doing consulting with a company.
[00:10:07] And they’re interested in designing universally designed residences for individuals with intellectual disabilities. And the number of things that the Amazon Alexa can control is mind boggling. The blinds, the locks, the doors, everything. It’s awesome. Not to mention all of the leisure activities, like you said, listening to music, listening to podcasts, maybe even sending a text or checking your calendar.
[00:10:35] So I definitely can understand why that’s at the top of your list and for any listeners who aren’t really familiar with it, we will put a link in the show notes, just so you know what that is.
[00:10:47] Sarah: Yes, we we use Google, so it’s very similar product to the Google Home and the Google Mini and it’s easy enough that our two-year-old has even started saying, “set timer for one minute” when she knows that she has one minute left to do something.
[00:11:03] So it is very versatile. Like you said, in ages two to older adults as well.
[00:11:10] Hannah: Yeah, just crazy how you can use it for so many different things and you wouldn’t even realize it or think about it until you have that need. And then you realize that you can program it to do all the things. A little bit scary if you think about it too much, but I try not to think about it too much and just use it for what it’s good for.
[00:11:27] Sarah: Yeah. I think the convenience factor in a lot of those things outweighs some of the scariness of it too.
[00:11:33] Rebecca: Yeah, just enjoy it and listen to your podcast. Maybe listen to some Good Fit Poor Fit.
[00:11:39] Sarah: Yes.
[00:11:42] Rebecca: So Hannah, thank you so much for taking some time to share your ideas and the things that inspire you with us.
[00:11:48] We really appreciate you being here today, but also all the work that you’ve done for our organization. And I know we appreciate it and our Design Advisors appreciate it. And now our listeners will appreciate you just as well. So thank you so much. And we’ll talk to you again soon.
[00:12:06] Hannah: Yes, you’re welcome. Thanks again for having me.
[00:12:10] 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].
[00:12:41] Thanks for fitting us into your day!