[00:00:00] 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] Sarah: Learn more at universaldesign.org.
[00:00:31] Hi listeners. Welcome back after a bit of a hiatus in our podcast. We are excited to be at our microphones once again, to talk about universal design and all the things in our lives that can be a good fit or a poor fit for our needs. We have some great interviews and content in the works so keep tuned in for more from us this summer. Today, we have another special episode in our series, UD and Me. Rebecca and I will be introducing you to Daniel-Hannah Grace. She is a student at Washington University in St. Louis, but is joining us remotely in New Mexico to finish up her doctoral capstone in OT.
[00:01:07] She is working in several places at once this semester and joining us part of the week to work on educational content for some online courses. We are excited to have her share more about herself, what she’s up to this summer in her capstone work and some of her favorite UD things.
[00:01:25] Daniel-Hannah: Hi, Sarah, thanks for the intro, and thanks for having me on the podcast. So like you said, for my doctoral capstone, I’m exploring the role of occupational therapy in the design and build industry. And as you mentioned, I have two partners, one of which is The Universal Design Project. And one is local to my home state of New Mexico, where I’m currently living.
[00:01:46] Here at UDP, I’m already learning so much about universal design, the role of occupational therapy, and co-designing. And my other partnership is with an architecture firm where I’m consulting on the design and build of a hotel resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
[00:02:02] Even though UDP is focused on universally designed homes and my consulting partnership focuses on a commercial space, I am already seeing how what I’m learning from y’all about co-designing, and universal design, in general, is adding to my perspective and helping me pass along universal design recommendations to make the hotel more usable for all.
[00:02:23] Sarah: We are so glad to have you and if my memory is serving me right, you came to us via the recommendation from one of our previous students, Kati, who you met at a fieldwork site. Kati actually helped us start this podcast, so it is pretty fun to see how our work is impacting OTs in different settings and encouraging OTs in looking to do something different in a non-traditional practice.
[00:02:47] I am so glad that in just a few weeks, you’ve learned more about the role of OT in the design world, whether it can apply to a commercial project like you’re working on in the hotel resort, as well as how it can be beneficial in the housing industry. In both projects, it’s really thinking about how people will use the home and use the hotel to make it user-friendly.
[00:03:09] Thinking about UD in this way is much different than working with individual people in their homes, because you have to consider any type of person that may come through the doors of the hotel and make it work well for them, so they have an enjoyable experience from check-in to the amenities, to their room and beyond. I look forward to seeing how your perspective grows this summer, but let’s take a step back. Daniel-Hannah, how did you first become interested in the world of UD?
[00:03:35] Daniel-Hannah: Yeah, so during my first semester, well, second semester actually, in the program of occupational therapy at Wash U we had a course titled, “Enabling Community Living”. So, topics for this course included: social determinants of health, technology for recreation, exercise, and community mobility, and universal design.
[00:03:57] We got a short introduction to UD through a lecture and then we were introduced to this tool called the Community Health Environment Checklist, which assesses community settings for their usability based off of what people with disabilities say is important for them to be able to participate and interact within the community site.
[00:04:16] This idea of “usability for all” made so much sense to me. Why would we not create something that can be used by everyone with input from the very people who use it? I’m sure you’ve had a moment when you interacted with a product or business and thought, “wow, they really missed the mark with this one”. Or when you wonder, who was even at the table when they were designing and testing the product.
[00:04:39] Understanding user experience and the implementation of universal design is interesting to me because they try to optimize real people’s interaction with the world around them. And that’s what I want to do.
[00:04:52] Rebecca: Well, you are speaking my language, my friend. I love that this kind of course is included in your curriculum because I think it’s an aspect of occupational therapy that so many people overlook- and that’s our ability to analyze environments, including community environments, not just home and personal ones, to understand how they may support or sometimes inhibit people from doing what they want to need to. This idea of optimizing real interactions in the world is precisely what OTs are trained to do, though, I bet if you asked a hundred people what an OT did, very few, if any, would say that. So moving along, tell us and our listeners, “what is your favorite home-related universal design feature?”
[00:05:39] Daniel-Hannah: I love this question. I’m gonna lump office in with the home, especially with so many people working from home, I think it definitely counts. I’d have to say that my favorite home-related UD product is an adjustable desk. So, I’ll give you some context for why this is my favorite product. I’m five foot even, and reality is most chairs are just not made for me.
[00:06:02] I think the only time I’ve really felt like a chair was made for me was when I did a short rotation at an elementary school because they just have smaller chairs. And sure I can use an adjustable chair and that might solve one of the problems for my legs to touch the ground comfortably, but then the table surface ends up being way too high, my wrists are at a weird position, my shoulders are tense, and especially if I’m working in that position for a while, it adds up. But with an adjustable desk table surface, I can put it at a height that’s perfect for me and whatever chair I’m using. I also love that I can take a break from sitting and stand at the desk if I want to. Beyond working for me, this is my favorite UD product, because it is truly usable for everyone. Anyone can use this same desk, seated or standing, kids, adults of all heights, and you can use whatever chair fits you best.
[00:06:56] Sarah: This is definitely a great UD feature, Rebecca and I can attest to the amount of conversations we’ve had in our team meetings about finding the perfect height of a countertop in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms, and if only they were adjustable, it would be perfect. I am so glad to see adjustable desks venture into the office space and other workspaces. We have two adjustable desks in our office and it’s great because I am also on the short side too, Daniel-Hannah. If I’m rounding up, I’m five foot three, and I interact with the desk about the same way you do. Plus we have the added component of Scott who uses two different wheelchairs. One that sits lower and the other that sits a bit higher and that impacts if he can fit under a desk and where the keyboard and the screen end up being. Sometimes we switched desks. And then with the tap of a switch, we have flexibility in our space for his needs and my needs in the tasks that we’re doing.
[00:07:53] It’s all about angles and that changes when we sit or stand. It’s important that our feet are supported, our neck is in a neutral position, looking straight at our screen, and our arms are in a comfortable spot to type so we aren’t needing massages each week, although that would be nice, after sitting crooked at our screens all day. Sometimes this requires more computer equipment like extra screens, but making things more ergonomic is important. Who all is listening and is starting to think that you might need to check out how you sit at your computer? Maybe you’re like me and you also need to get off the couch when doing lots of work. I see you.
[00:08:29] This is a great example, Daniel-Hannah, because I think we’ve all experienced this situation and this idea can be transferred over to considering adjustable countertops and workspaces and other areas of our home. They do make these countertops for other areas, but unfortunately, they’re so expensive. Maybe as more people see the benefits of their office desks by jumping on the adjustable desk trend, maybe more manufacturers will get creative with this in other areas of the home, making the price go down a bit.
[00:09:01] Let’s change gears a bit and venture out into the community. Daniel-Hannah, can you share with our listeners your favorite UD product or feature that is not typically in the home?
[00:09:11] Daniel-Hannah: Yes. I think my favorite UD example out in the community has got to be automatic doors. They are such a simple example of UD, but they really show how universal design helps everyone, not just those with disabilities. In thinking about navigating leaving the grocery store with your hands full, there are a few things that come to my mind: a grocery cart or an armful of grocery bags, or even a toddler holding your hand to cross the street safely.
[00:09:40] With that much going on automatic doors provide ease of entry and exit for those with limited mobility, decreased strength or dexterity to open doors, and those who just have their hands full. It’s my favorite example of UD in the community because it truly makes things more usable for everyone.
[00:09:58] Rebecca: Yes. And spoken like someone who knows what she’s talking about in the world of universal design and she is just getting started people. But, I digress. The automatic door is such a classic in the universal design world. That is one of my go-to examples when I’m explaining universal design to a client. So, I’m really glad that you brought this up. It really is something that most people don’t think about as universal design and they just interact with it on a often daily basis without even realizing how universal it is. But it’s an excellent example, as you said, of design that is simply functional for everybody.
[00:10:38] And I think that that’s a lovely place to wrap for the day. Daniel-Hannah, welcome to the universal design project and to good fit, poor fit. We can’t wait to see and hear more from you. And to our listeners, it is good to be back at the mic and we’ll be back in your feeds real soon.
[00:10:54] 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][00:11:25] Thanks for fitting us into your day!