[00:00:00] 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] Hi listeners! Welcome back for yet another episode in our series UD and Me! Today we’ll be introducing you to our new OT student, Nate Pickett. He is joining us from the northeastern part of the US and is studying occupational therapy at the University of New England. He actually reached out to us to become one of our design advisors, and through several conversations, he was able to join us for his fieldwork to get his feet wet in a non-traditional setting.
[00:01:00] So Nate, can you share a little bit more about yourself and how you became interested in OT and Universal Design?
[00:01:08] Nate: Sure thing and thank you for the introduction and allowing me to be here. I’m beyond excited to become a part of this team as I’ve been following the work that The Universal Design Project completes for quite some time now, and it means a lot to me to finally become a part of it. So, as you mentioned, my name is Nate Pickett, and yes, I grew up, attend school, and still live in the northeast part of the country.
[00:01:28] Thinking about this geographic location and its relation to universal design, it adds a unique challenge that can be explored further in a little bit. But first, to answer your question, my earliest interest in OT came as a high school senior where I knew I wanted to work in a job that directly benefits the lives of others.
[00:01:44] My initial thoughts naturally led me to the healthcare field because it was pretty obvious how that work can benefit others. However, I didn’t know exactly where I fit because none really stuck out to me until I heard about OT from colleagues. Curious but not confident in what OT was at the time, I began my college journey as a student on a pre-OT track.
[00:02:02] Once there, I met the staff in my program, some OTs and some public health professionals, but each had their own field of work that was totally different. It was then and there that I knew this is where I was meant to be. Through coursework and conversations with professors, I was introduced to the many opportunities, both traditional and non-traditional that the field of OT has to offer.
[00:02:22] I knew that I wanted to be an OT, but I wanted to see what I could do outside of the traditional walls, and no pun intended. One that stuck out was the concept of aging in place, which aims to keep individuals in their homes for as long as possible as they age. Having experience and interest working in construction and remodeling with my father, this combo sparked a thought where, I was curious if I could take typical construction or remodeling concepts, and pair them with the needs of individuals to help them stay at home longer.
[00:02:49] Initially, I was unaware of any company in my geographic area that completed work in this field. This can probably be best explained by the colonial-type infrastructure that exists in the New England area that dates back many, many years.
[00:03:00] But still curious, down a rabbit hole I went, searching to see if my thoughts were already in place, and this is how I came across The Universal Design Project, where to my surprise, I found that healthcare providers, specifically OTs, are actively collaborating with builders, architects, and community members to make a much-needed change.
[00:03:17] It was here I discovered how to become a design advisor to gain some more knowledge on what universal design was and how The Universal Design Project makes an impact in this unique area. So when it became time to share our placement preferences for level II fieldwork, choices included pediatric practice, rehab and disability, or mental health.
[00:03:35] Stubbornly, I wrote in an answer stating that I was interested in emerging area of practice, specifically universal design. One thing led to another and my dreams became a reality, and now I am just starting up here at The Universal Design Project and I couldn’t be more excited to collaborate with everyone and continue the expansion of occupational therapy to new paths.
[00:03:54] Rebecca: Well, Nate. You are so welcome, and we are so excited to have you here. You said a number of things that really lit me up, and also, I really identify with from being someone who is kind of interested in non-traditional OT from the beginning, a stubborn go-getter, all things that we love here at The Universal Design Project, and clearly someone who has a very innate eye for universal design, so we’re lucky to have you here.
[00:04:23] So tell me, what is your favorite non-home-related universal design feature, or product, or concept?
[00:04:32] Nate: Sure! So, my favorite non-home-related universal design product isn’t necessarily structural based, but it’s the first experience I can recall where the principles of universal design really stuck with me. One area of this field that we have talked about presenting many challenges is that people don’t always necessarily see the value in universal design until it’s experienced for themselves.
[00:04:51] That’s exactly what happened to me the first time I used my favorite non-home-related universal design feature, rubber-handled and soft grip kitchen utensils. Originally, these products were designed primarily for ease of access and comfort for individuals with injuries that impact their upper extremity use while performing kitchen tasks.
[00:05:08] This product design allowed for comfort and ease of access, resulting in continuation of performing desired kitchen tasks, which is the ultimate goal of occupational therapy. But somewhere along the line, these products began to find themselves onto retail shelves. Consumers began finding the value in these specially designed products. Now, this product wasn’t just assisting those with injury, but rather all people were finding a desire to use these products.
[00:05:31] As an ice cream fanatic, I found myself out and about wandering through the ice cream section of my local supermarket. That is where I found an ice cream scoop that I had never seen before, one with a rubber handle and a comfort grip.
[00:05:42] When I picked it up, I knew I had to buy it. Immediately I thought, why use a solid metal scoop with my frozen ice cream when I can find comfort in preparing my treat with a cushion scoop? When I later found out about what rubber handled and comfort grip utensils were used for, it all clicked.
[00:05:57] Universal design isn’t designing products for a specific need. Rather, anyone and everyone can find function in products that are built to be universally designed.
[00:06:06] Sarah: Nate, you are right on target. What a wonderful example of UD as it is seen in a common product many of us have seen before. And if you haven’t, check out OXO Good grips, that’s O-X-O for OXO, and get your hands on some of these tools. We actually have many of these cooking tools with built-up handles in our kitchen too.
[00:06:28] They are great for Scott who doesn’t have any grip in his hands, and my toddler who is still figuring out how to manipulate tools to stir, plus the ergonomics of these products is really comfortable in my hand too. I’ve often been frustrated in the past with big metals, stirring spoons that dig into my hand when I’m making my favorite fall treat, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Sounds like you had that same pain point with your ice cream scoops, Nate.
[00:06:55] It’s pretty cool that this company really does think about all the types of hands that can use their products. Older hands that may have arthritis, younger hands that are small and that may need a bigger handle to grip and all the other hands in between.
[00:07:08] They’re really doing a great job meeting the needs of a wide variety of people, to make and serve our favorite foods in the kitchen. Now let’s chat about your favorite product that can be utilized in the home. What would you like to tell our listeners about, Nate?
[00:07:23] Nate: So, my favorite home-related universal design feature is definitely a faucet that has motion control features. I have many reasons for this, but none more important than the ease of access that these features create. Thinking about the kitchen and washing dishes, everyone feels like they need a third hand to complete all the tasks required in washing dishes. Now, think about this experience of washing dishes, but now you don’t have full function of one or both hands. This adds a barrier that can feel too difficult to overcome.
[00:07:49] By incorporating a motion-sensing sink, needing a hand to control the water is eliminated, making the task easier. Full attention of hands can now be focused on the task of washing dishes. Instead, users need to just wipe their hand past the motion sensor, and the sink will turn on to a preset water pressure and temperature to wash dishes.
[00:08:06] Furthermore, a motion-sensing sink can eliminate the mess that dishwashing can create. Think about washing dishes. Your hands are soapy, soaking wet, and probably dirty. With the traditional sink, you have to use a hand to turn on the water, and off, creating a mess of soap and water around the faucet head. So you better not keep anything important, any papers or bills near the sink because they might not make it through.
[00:08:28] Lastly, if there’s anything that the last three years have taught us, hand hygiene is of great importance. Thinking even beyond the walls of your own home, nobody wants to shut off the dirty sink with their freshly washed hands.
[00:08:38] A motion-activated sink eliminates the need to touch the faucet after your hands are washed. Hands can remain happy and healthy, and we can each do our part in eliminating the spread of germs.
[00:08:47] Overall, universal design helps as many people as possible access the world in the easiest way possible. While sometimes a difficult concept to grasp universal design truly means what it says, design for everyone, no matter what.
[00:08:59] With that in mind, I bet you’ve encountered some universal design features in your own life. Therefore, I would challenge all listeners to identify maybe one or two things in your life that can fit the concept of universal design.
[00:09:12] Rebecca: Well, geez, Nate! Like I said, you are natural and I feel like we should just leave the podcast at that! Though I will just take one second to say, I love that as a universal design feature in a home. Because of all the reasons that you outlined from germs to making a mess with all the water when you’re cleaning up.
[00:09:31] But really, again, we’re so excited to have you here, and listeners, I do encourage you to think about how universal design might play a role in your life, maybe you don’t even realize it. What are one or two things in your life that are universally designed that function really well and are intuitive in their use?
[00:09:48] We’d love to hear from you if you want to comment on our webpage or show page, and we appreciate your time and hope you stay well. Have a great day.
[00:09:57] 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].
[00:10:28] Thanks for fitting us into your day!