[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. Hi listeners. Welcome back for yet another episode in our series, UD and Me. Today we’ll be introducing you to Brittany Wagner. She is a student in occupational therapy, getting her doctorate from Towson University. She has already gotten her feet wet with some home modification projects personally but is now learning about UD and completing her capstone project with our organization, The UD Project.
[00:00:57] So welcome, Brittany, and feel free to share a little bit more about yourself with our listeners and why you’re excited about universal design.
[00:01:05] Brittany: Thanks, Sarah. Thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to be working with The UD Project for my capstone. So a little bit about me, I’m from Baltimore, Maryland, born and raised. I really enjoy being outside, obviously cheering on my Ravens, going on adventures with my golden retriever puppy, Banks.
[00:01:24] He really keeps me busy. The home modification projects personally that you just mentioned involves my boyfriend’s real estate investment company, where houses are bought, renovated, and then rented to long-term tenants. So this has been a great hands-on opportunity for me to gain more knowledge about real estate and home design and how I can then implement my OT knowledge into the renovation. Specifically related to my schooling, I’m currently completing my occupational therapy doctorate from Towson, like you said. I just completed both level two fieldwork experiences, one in Norfolk, Virginia, in the acute care setting and then one in Greenville, South Carolina, in the outpatient pediatric setting. I really enjoyed working in both, and now I just have one last semester before graduation working on my Capstone project. So when I had to start thinking about my Capstone project, I really tried to think of things I was interested in that would be cool to integrate with OT. This was a really daunting task in the beginning as I was not sure how to align my interest in real estate and home design with OT, as those aren’t typical areas for OTs.
Upon searching, for what felt like forever, I came across the words, universal design. Once I started looking into what universal design was, I knew this was the best combination of my interests and what I love about OT. So I came across The UD project, set up a meeting with Scott and Sarah, and was so happy that I did. So that being said, the thing that really excites me about universal design is how it truly enables all individuals to feel comfortable in their home and maintain independence for longer. I think a really big misconception about UD is that it cannot be pretty because it’s only for the physically disabled, and that makes a lot of people think of big, metal ramps, stair lifts, and other not-so-appealing
[00:03:56] Rebecca: Well, first off, welcome to The Universal Design Project, Brittany. We’re really happy and lucky to have you. And second, I love that you brought up the idea of functionality and aesthetics not being mutually exclusive. You’re so right. They can exist together because universal design is not designing for disability with big metal ramps and lifts; as you noted, it’s designing in a way that’s functional, easy, and intuitive for the widest variety of people. Including people with disabilities, of course. So let’s get to the heart of the matter here. What is your favorite non-home-related universal design feature?
[00:04:33] Brittany: Oh, great question. I would have to say automatic doors and just overall adequate lighting in all spaces. I think this is such an important UD feature since automatic doors really allow everyone to access a space. So many times I’ve been to a store or a mall entrance that doesn’t have a handicap-accessible entrance and only has the push or pull doors, and that’s just not accessible or convenient for anyone. Just thinking about someone who’s carrying a lot of shopping bags, managing their children, using a walker, cane, or wheelchair, manual doors just are really not efficient and they don’t work efficiently.
[00:05:13] This also just shows the impact universal design features have on community spaces that many people go to on their days and never even really consider. It’s another reason I really love the integration of OT into universal design, as we have a unique skill set to analyze a space and everyday tasks and the abilities that people must have to engage in these specific activities or any modifications one may need. There’s also many times the handicap-accessible buttons and doors aren’t working properly, and people are stuck with trying to manage a manual door. These are just things that shouldn’t occur, and with automatic doors being a staple feature in all areas, there’s at least one less barrier all individuals must face on a daily basis. And the other feature I love is how much adequate lighting is discussed in universal design. Lighting is such an important aspect to navigating familiar and unfamiliar environments for individuals getting home late at night, getting up in the middle of the night, cooking, or people who have concerns with low vision; lighting is crucial. Things like parking areas, store entrances, aisles, and anywhere a person will be truly needs to have adequate lighting for safety and usability. I think these two features are so important for universal design and community spaces.
[00:06:35] Sarah: Automatic doors are one of the things that I think we sometimes take for granted and forget that it’s a great UD feature. Lighting is often an important overlooked feature too, especially out in the community. Parking, entrances, and inside stores are great examples. I know there’s definitely a sense of calmness that I feel walking down a well-lit street or an evenly lit hallway when trying to find that elusive bathroom in a restaurant or a public building. There is nothing like feeling those nervous feelings creep in when we don’t know where we are or , when our surroundings aren’t well-lit. I often we think about other important areas for lighting for the places that we visit that are supposed to be dark, like movie theaters, museums, or the aquarium, places where darkness is also part of the purpose of the experience, but also being able to utilize light in a way that keeps us all safe and helps us figure out where to go. There’s a lot to think about for lighting, for sure. But moving on, Brittany, I’d love to hear about any ideas you’ve come across for the home. Do you have a favorite UD concept or product from a home setting?
[00:07:42] Brittany: Oh wow, I have a lot of favorites for sure. I would have to say my favorite UD feature in the home is a pot filler above the cooktop. The pot filler above the cooktop is such an awesome feature as carrying a pot full of water from the sink to the stove is not only really heavy, but it’s such a safety concern for anyone in the kitchen, regardless of specific abilities. It’s so easy for water to splash out onto the floor, creating a fall risk, water to be splashed onto a hot burner, creating a burn risk, and simply the difficulty of carrying a heavy item across a kitchen or counter. Individuals need a safe way to fill up a pot that does not require walking with a heavy object, picking up the heavy pot, worrying about spills or burning themselves, and possibly trying to manipulate the pot full of water while also using a device such as a walker, cane, or wheelchair. Not only is this a smart safety feature, it is just so much more convenient. I really wish my apartment had this feature, but unfortunately, it does not, and there have been many times I’ve spilled water on the floor or accidentally splashed water onto the cooktop when placing the pot down. I mean, how much easier would it be to simply place an empty, cool pot onto a burner and use a lever handle to turn on the water compared to carrying a heavy pot? I know I will definitely be having this feature in a future home. I think it is important to think about the convenience, safety, and physical concerns that make daily tasks difficult, such as grip and hand strength, endurance, arthritis, vision, and upper extremity strength, and the list can really go on. While these might not be things everyone’s thinking about in their younger age or new home purchase, they’re important aspects to consider as we all age and everyone enjoys conveniences in life, that enable us to spend more time doing what we love.
[00:09:40] Rebecca: Excellent shout, Brittany. Pot fillers are a feature that many people may not immediately consider a universal choice, but as you noted, it really can serve a lot of people in terms of the safety, convenience, and functionality that it provides. I think this becomes even more true when the lever is somehow retractable.
[00:09:57] Sometimes, pot fillers can be limiting in their functionality for people who may not be able to reach all the way across the stovetop. But, I’ve seen great designs in which the pot filler can be pulled further out in order to reduce this burden. So, that really is a great choice. I also hope that a future house someday will have one as well. So, thank you so much for this new addition to The Universal Design feature favorites, Brittany. Can’t wait to see what other goodness you bring to the Universal Design Project in the coming semester. And to our listeners, have a great day, and we’ll talk to you real soon.
[00:10:32] 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.
[00:10:53] Learn more at universaldesign.org.