[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] Learn more at universaldesign.org
[00:00:32] Sarah: Hi listeners. Welcome back for yet another special episode in our series, UD and Me. Today, we’ll be introducing you to our new OT student, Alee Halsey. She was in one of the classes I taught last semester at James Madison University, and is now joining us for her fieldwork this fall with our organization. She follows on the heels of another JMU OT student, Rachel Melvin, who was with us last fall. You may remember Rachel, as she joined us at the microphone a few times for several podcasts. At any rate, we are glad to have Alee with us as she learns more about universal design and housing, as well as how OTs can practice in different settings other than a clinic. So Alee, can you share a little bit more about yourself and how you became interested in OT and universal design?
[00:01:21] Alee: Thanks for the intro, Sarah. I’m happy to be joining you on this podcast and Universal Design Project for my second level two this fall, as you mentioned, Rachel Melvin introduced me to The Universal Design Project and the potential for a level two placement here. I was so impressed and interested in the innovative work you all were doing and learning more about alternative OT practice. I previously worked as an artist before discovering occupational therapy, and I’ve always been intrigued by how I can merge my creative skills into OT. I was very drawn to the vision and creativity that’s involved in creating universally accessible homes for clients and making such a profound impact upon their environment and daily lives by providing them with homes that are best suited to their needs and wants. The collaboration with so many different types of professionals within UDP is really exciting and inspiring. And I’ve loved about all the possibilities for how OT can expand beyond the clinical setting.
[00:02:15] Rebecca: Did I hear OT beyond the clinical setting? I always know that is my cue to hop in here. It is awesome to have another non-traditional curious OT student in our midst. So welcome, Alee. Also, I love how many people we hear in the world of OT who find themselves to be really creative and into art. I actually think that that is so much of what makes OTs really great, because we can look at things and imagine the possibility instead of just seeing what is already there.
[00:02:47] So I’m gonna put you on the spot, even though you’re new to this universal design world. What is your favorite non-home related universal design feature?
[00:02:57] Alee: Great question. In the community, I think one of my favorite UD features are raised garden beds. As someone who loves to spend time outside and in nature, I’ve always felt it’s important for everyone to have access to this as well. Nature and all of the sensory experiences it provides has just so many benefits. I like how raised garden beds give people of all ages the opportunity to interact with the natural world and the community, wherever they might be– a community garden space, assisted living facility, school, or other location. Physically getting around the ground is not an option for many elderly or physically disabled individuals, but having a garden bed where they can easily reach in can make all the difference. The social opportunity these raised beds provides is also a big benefit, as adults or other children are able to work together and alongside one another to build something beautiful together.
[00:03:49] Sarah: I absolutely love the versatility of raised garden beds for all of the reasons you described. I think that’s definitely becoming more mainstream these days as well. I have seen some of my parents’ friends post about raised garden beds in their yard to continue their gardening, to eat their all time favorite tomato sandwich. In addition, they’re planting flowers to display beautiful arrangements in vases for themselves or friends. There are so many benefits to gardening for mental health as well. Another fun fact about Alee as she was in the class, I taught this past semester at JMU, where students had the opportunity to create their own community-based program. And I was surprised how many of her classmates were interested in the idea of gardening and using raised beds in the design. Two groups used this idea in their programs. One was for a community garden that people young and old worked on together, and another was focused on a sensory area and a park for kids and adults to be able to smell, feel, and taste when appropriate, different plants for a unique sensory experience. Thinking about the task of gardening and all of the steps that goes into it, raised garden beds make so much sense for so many people who are living life with less than perfect abilities. So now we’re going to shift gears a little bit, Alee, and focus on the home. Can you tell our listeners your favorite home-related UD product or feature?
[00:05:19] Alee: Of course, within the home, I’d say my favorite UD feature would be lighting that can be activated and dimmed with touch switches or on the light fixture itself. Lighting is an important part of how I experience my home environment, and it can make such an impact on your emotions or functionality. For instance, if a person has sensory sensitivities, low lighting can help elicit a much calmer space for them.
[00:05:40] Meanwhile, for someone who’s elderly, they may be affected by reduced hand strength and/or low vision. These switches can make all the difference in their ability to independently and safely ambulate throughout their home.
[00:05:53] Rebecca: Excellent points. Lighting can be manipulated in so many ways to support people with different sensory, physical, and even cognitive and emotional needs. And as someone who lives in an apartment with very bizarre lighting and switches, I can personally get on board with this idea rather easily. I particularly love rocker light, switches, and lights that can be activated in a number of flexible ways like using a switch or an app or a button. And this type of flexibility is as pretty much as close as it can possibly get to universal. Anyway, Alee, thank you for introducing yourself to us and to our listeners. We can’t wait to watch you learn and grow in your next couple months here at The Universal Design Project. And listeners, we will be back in your feed real soon, and we hope you take care and have a lovely fall.
[00:06:43] 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 podcast@sarahpruettg.
[00:07:14] Thanks for fitting us into your day!