Sarah: [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.
Learn more at universaldesign.org.
Hi, listeners. Welcome back for another Good Fit Poor Fit episode. I have Rebecca with me, and as some of our listeners may already know, our current OT student, Brittany. For those who don’t know, Brittany is completing her doctoral capstone project on universal design and wanted to give us a little rundown on some research she did during her time with us. She sent a survey out to those in the building and design industry to discover how an educational video with virtual renders can be used to improve the understanding of universal design concepts. In this [00:01:00] episode, Brittany is gonna take us through her project and discuss the results.
So Brittany, start us off by sharing your research question and your reasoning for seeking out these specific stakeholders.
Brittany: Hi, Sarah. I’m excited to be back for another episode to share my capstone results with the listeners, but it’s also a bittersweet moment since this will be my last podcast with The UD Project. But let me not get too sappy and start with what my capstone project is all about. For my capstone, I decided to investigate how an educational video with the use of virtual renderings of a universally designed home could improve the understanding and knowledge of UD, specifically among stakeholders involved in the home design process. My research question was, does engaging in an education program for universal design with virtual renderings increase knowledge and awareness of the benefits and application of universal design [00:02:00] in professional disciplines? With this research question, I decided to create an online educational video using virtual renderings to assist in communicating the benefits and understanding of UD.
We’ve linked it in the show notes if you wanna take a look at the video. I also decided to use contractors and architects in both the commercial and residential industry as the primary stakeholders for this project. I was interested in the perceptions of architects in regard to UD because they really have a large part in designing homes and commercial spaces and also advising their clients of various design choices.
They’re a profession who I believe could have a large part in advocating for UD and educating clients on the benefits of adding specific design elements into their home or space. In addition, I found contractors to be a pretty interesting profession to have as [00:03:00] participants because they’re the profession who’s actually doing the building of these homes and spaces and abiding by the design plans.
I believe this was another profession who was very involved in the housing industry and could benefit from increased awareness of UD to also educate clients and learn more about ways to build more functional spaces.
Rebecca: What an awesome capstone project and question. And selfishly for us here at The Universal Design Project, I’m thrilled that you are exploring this, especially given our recent focus on education about universal design. It’s really interesting that you chose those specific professions. I do agree there are many professions you could have used for this project, and maybe in the future, more professions can be researched as well.
Can you tell us a little more about your sample size and your recruiting efforts?
Brittany: Yeah, there are a lot of professions out there that could have been included, and I do hope in the future, studies are able to look at them and see how a similar program or [00:04:00] educational platform can increase their knowledge and ability to apply UD. But back to this study, I had a total of 10 participants, which is not a super big sample size, but it was my anticipated sample size given the nature of this project and timeframe for collecting responses. I had a total of six architects, three contractors, and one interior designer as my participants. They were all collected through a convenience sample and through leveraging social connections. And before we get into talking about the results of the study, I wanna quickly go through how this study was designed for participants’ participation.
As I mentioned a little bit earlier, I created a 15-minute educational video presentation that detailed information and statistics regarding UD and its benefits, why it was needed, and why an interdisciplinary approach between architects, contractors, and occupational therapists was [00:05:00] essential to further promoting UD and having it become a part of the home design industry.
So this educational video also included a number of virtual renderings of a universally designed bathroom as this is one of the main spaces in a home that inhibits independence and is a really big safety concern with the increased risk of falls. It’s also an area that OTs spend a lot of time educating in and practicing skills with their clients to ensure safety upon returning home after an illness or an injury. Participants were instructed to sign a consent form, complete a pre-survey, watch the educational video, and then complete a post-survey. These surveys aim to assess participants’ thoughts, perceptions, understanding, ability to apply UD concepts, and assess how they believe their profession could advocate for UD.
Sarah: It sounds like you hit on quite a few important pieces in this education video, Brittany. [00:06:00] Not only what UD is, but what occupational therapists do and how we help people in completing activities within our home. Our perspective on how people do tasks within the design of a bathroom was a great way to showcase why collaboration is important, especially with the stakeholders you reached out to.
I think it’ll be interesting to learn where these stakeholders stand, especially on how they see their professions playing a role in UD.
Brittany: I agree, and that’s one of the main reasons I specifically chose to incorporate the renderings from the bathroom. It’s a space we all use frequently, and unfortunately, it can be a very unsafe space for a variety of reasons. I really strived to use the visuals as a way to showcase the specific features and elements that UD incorporates into such an important space within a home, to really show my participants why UD is needed and how specific features can increase overall usability of the space, while still [00:07:00] maintaining creativity, aesthetic appeal, and abiding by building codes which are important to both architects and contractors.
Rebecca: That makes complete sense. I always joke that people would be surprised how much time we spend in the universal design world talking about bathrooms. So I’m really glad that you mentioned that a couple minutes ago. But Brittany, I’m really interested in your findings. Can you explain any answers you uncovered or maybe even some more questions that you found that need to be asked?
Brittany: Of course! These were interesting findings as the use of the virtual renderings was one of the main focuses of my project, and as many listeners know from my previous episode on virtual reality, I’m really interested in whether people believe VR can be beneficial or not. The findings showed that before participants engaged in the educational video, nine of 10 participants believed that virtual renderings would be beneficial in communicating UD concepts.[00:08:00]
One participant, who was an architect, initially did not believe the virtual renderings would increase his or her understanding of UD concepts. However, following the educational video, when this participant was asked if the virtual renderings helped to increase his or her understanding of UD concepts, the participant’s response was agree.
So this data really helps to show that following the educational video, all 10 participants believe the use of virtual renderings within the educational video were beneficial to understanding UD concepts better. Now, going to the findings related to the future use of VR and being a way to enhance the understanding of UD concepts.
All 10 participants believed using VR in the future would be a beneficial way to provide more insight and understanding of UD concepts. The findings indicate that all 10 participants had a positive outlook on the future use of VR [00:09:00] being used to enhance education of UD through a more immersive and realistic means, as no participants indicated the future use of VR would not be beneficial for improving knowledge of UD.
Sarah: Well, this is all positive. I know I’m definitely a visual learner and that’s why I think having accurate visuals of universal design is important to have out there, to really show usefulness of this for a wide variety of people.
I think your video and the courses that we’ve been creating in our organization will really help with boosting that knowledge for others in the future, as it seemed to do for your sample. Brittany, did you have any other takeaways from these findings?
Brittany: Yeah, there are some good takeaways from the findings related to the virtual renderings. I believe the largest change in responses came down to the fact it’s fairly uncommon for virtual renderings of a home to be created by a healthcare profession, such as OT, and that could be one of the reasons as to why the one architect [00:10:00] participant initially indicated disagree when asked if he or she believed virtual renderings would be beneficial.
When looking at the responses for the future use of VR, I believe the findings can be attributed to an overall increase among society in the use and acceptance of technology within education, as well as an increased understanding of how VR can provide a more immersive and realistic opportunity for users to understand those complex topics, such as UD, through an active learning and engagement process.
Rebecca: That is a reasonable hypothesis, Brittany, about the rarity of someone like an OT to be creating renderings of the space. But hey, here we are doing it. So I like to think that we’re helping to change that narrative. It’s also cool to hear about the openness and positive perspectives about VR moving forward.
As I mentioned when we last spoke, I’ll be really curious to see where this field goes in a lot of [00:11:00] ways, but of course, particularly related to universal design. Tell us more about what you’ve done to review and analyze your findings, Brittany.
Brittany: Sure. So I pulled out three specific questions from graphs I made with the data to further analyze the assessed participants’ perceptions of the current lack of accessible homes in the US, whether the current housing options in the US were conducive for the needs of all people, and if they believed UD was a way to increase accessibility for all.
We’ll start with the findings related to the question, I accept or agree with the idea of universal design for homes being a way to increase accessibility for all people. The findings revealed the majority of participants do believe that UD can increase accessibility for all. Initially, there was one architect and one contractor who responded with neutral and disagree, when asked if UD was a way to [00:12:00] increase accessibility. Following the educational video, all 10 participants indicated they believed UD was a way to increase accessibility for all. And these findings can be further explained by qualitative data that was collected from participants. So one participant stated, hearing the statistics of how the impacted population is at odds with the stock makes me want to do even more to rectify the situation.
And to help listeners better understand what this participant is talking about, I provided specific statistics in my educational video to really drive home the need for UD with the current limitations in the housing stock. For example, the statistics provided in the video included that currently less than 0.15% or 200,000 of the current 140 million housing units in the US can be considered universally accessible, [00:13:00] which proves to be a mismatch in homes for the 19% of households in the US with a disability and even broader, 73% of the market affected by disability, which includes people with disabilities, their family, and their friends. In addition, when we consider demographic changes, there is a rising elderly population, creating a demographic shift to one in six people being over 60 years old by 2030.
There’s also 61.4 million non- institutionalized US adults, or one in four Americans who are currently living with a disability. A final statistic that I believe really shows the need for more accessible homes is that 77% of adults, 50 years and older want to remain in their home long term, but typically cannot due to an inaccessible [00:14:00] home environment that could potentially cost thousands of dollars to modify and when we consider these facts, it is important to look at falling and fear of falling within the built environment. Data suggests that in the US alone, there are nearly 40,000 unintentional deaths annually due to falls. When providing these statistics, it is clear to me there is a need for UD, but now there’s data from these participants that also express a need for UD following this educational video.
And going back to some of that qualitative data from the participants, another participant said, it reminds me of my own family members and other people I have witnessed who have struggled and see a need in every family home to make more accessible. These responses, I believe, really help to explain why there was a shift in responses
from initially eight participants believing UD was a way to increase accessibility to all 10 [00:15:00] participants believing this, following the educational video. Data suggests that participants do believe UD is a way to increase accessibility for all people.
Sarah: I really think these statistics and the scenarios really help increase understanding. I mean, you could really hear that in their quotes that they shared with you. Many people just don’t understand the significant lack of housing that actually has accessible features and when people are able to put a personal spin on it or think about it impacting someone they know, I think it has a bigger impact and I’m really glad to see that there was some change in their perspective at the end of your survey after doing that education.
So what other questions did you ask in your survey?
Brittany: So another question that I asked and further analyzed was, I believe the current housing options in the US are conducive to all individuals. Findings discovered that nine of 10 participants responded that they do not [00:16:00] believe the current housing options are conducive. All six architects that were included in the study were found to believe the current housing options were not conducive.
This could be further explained by an architect participant saying, I am currently a certified aging in place specialist, as well as on the board of directors for a local network group for people in geriatric care service positions. I want to encourage not only coworkers to dive further into this realm, but our contracts with builders as academia for architecture to get this on the radar sooner and more effectively. So I think this quote really shows that this profession likely receives some education and information regarding accessible design elements and does largely integrate them into designs.
One of the largest changes discovered from the data came from the interior designer who initially [00:17:00] strongly disagreed that the current housing options were conducive. But following the educational video indicated a neutral response, and this change in response following the educational video could possibly be explained by a qualitative response that said, my commercial designs meet ADA standards and will continue to enforce the codes required. So this may help to explain that this particular participant may believe his or her company currently follows and meets all ADA code. So therefore, most spaces should be considered conducive for all individuals. But overall, findings did show an increased agreement among all participants that the current housing options are not conducive for all people when comparing the data from the pre and post surveys.
Rebecca: What an interesting finding here. To me, this demonstrates the value of [00:18:00] interprofessional collaboration and continued education about universal and inclusive design because as we know, even when spaces are completely and a hundred percent ADA compliant, that doesn’t always translate to actually functional, and usable by all people.
And how would someone like a builder or designer with no disability experience know that? They wouldn’t. So that’s where we come in, I think. Tell us more of this juicy, juicy stuff, Brittany.
Brittany: Sure. So the final question that was pulled out from the graphs was, I believe there is a current lack of accessible homes in the US. So the findings discovered nine of 10 participants believed there is a current lack of accessible homes following the educational video. However, the one participant who did not believe there is a current lack of accessible homes came from a contractor’s response who reported disagree in the post-survey. When [00:19:00] comparing responses between the three professions, contractor was the only one to report a response that was less than agree in the post-survey. However, it is important to note that only one contractor indicated he or she did not believe there is a current lack of accessible homes. Following the educational video, this contractor’s response could potentially be explained by a lack of defining what accessible means within the educational video as different people can attribute different meaning to the word. This participant did say, we currently install and or renovate commercial spaces and ADA spaces.
Which could also attribute to why this participant responded with disagree in the post-survey when asked whether he or she believed there is a current lack of accessible homes in the US. So this participant may also believe there’s not a lack of [00:20:00] accessible homes because contractors alike are making renovations and modifications to spaces as needed for individuals.
Thus, believing there may not be a lack of accessible homes. Overall, the findings did discover a vast majority of participants do believe there’s a current lack in accessible homes. This finding can be further explained by one participant who said, I never thought about how hard it is for individuals with disabilities to visit a home without any accessible components.
That makes me understand why UD is so important. It’s the findings from this question that suggest that following the educational video, there was an overall increase in the number of participants who believe there is a current lack of accessible homes within the US.
Sarah: Again, some positive findings coming out of your participants, Brittany. I am glad to hear some interesting takeaways [00:21:00] of professionals not having thought about visiting other people’s homes. And accessibility is broader than just the homes that people currently live in, but you are right when you are talking about people’s definitions of these words.
I know when we talk about universal accessibility in our organization, we feel that it is successfully done when it’s implemented in the entire home. However, some people put that wording on homes that only have a few accessible features, and that’s not helping people in our communities live more functional lives in their homes.
Brittany, do you have any other takeaways from this research that you’d like to share with our listeners?
Brittany: Yeah, and I think there are so many different definitions out there for what accessible, universal, or functional really means. And this can cause a lot of confusion. And you’re right, some people might believe that by incorporating a few features, the home or space is now accessible, which unfortunately [00:22:00] isn’t necessarily true.
So I do think one big takeaway when educating anyone is being sure to define those terms in the way you want your audience to associate them in the future. In addition, we can see that overall through providing education on this topic, more people are able to become educated and aware of UD and how it can be beneficial in a multitude of ways for all people.
That being said, something really important to consider, aside from the study’s results, is what’s next and where do we go from here? We, as OTs, are able to continue educating on this topic and incorporating visuals as a way to enhance understanding, to promote and advocate for more accessible and functional built environments.
We’re equipped with the skills and knowledge to educate and train individuals on ways to remain living in their home safely, as well as the ability to recommend [00:23:00] equipment to promote independence for as long as possible. While we have this clinical knowledge, we must continue pushing our knowledge out to other professions, specifically those involved in the home design industry.
There’s a growing interest in many professions related to this field, and I believe with continued advocacy, OT, other professions, and individuals can be at the forefront of finding ways to address the current housing stock and needs within the US. I believe we also must continue pushing for the need of interdisciplinary collaboration as there’s not just one profession, alone, who has all the necessary clinical skills and knowledge, analysis, and means to make UD a societal norm or a housing standard.
So moving forward from this study, we must find ways to promote UD, educate how it can be implemented into designs, and increase [00:24:00] overall consumer demand for more accessible, safe, and functional homes. When considering how homes can promote function and independence, regardless of age and ability level, there are significant clinical implications.
These can even include how this would potentially reduce the need for caregivers, hospital visits, the number of falls within a home, and other common occurrences that arise when the built environment is a poor fit. This study found that visuals such as virtual renderings and the future incorporation of VR is beneficial to promoting UD and helping individuals understand these concepts better.
This helps point us in the right direction. We must create more opportunities to educate with the use of beneficial visuals to a wide variety of stakeholders such as investors, real estate agents, brokers, home inspectors, residential appraisers, [00:25:00] commercial and residential developers, and so many more.
Rebecca: Woo, what exciting findings and a lovely crescendo you’ve brought this episode to, Brittany. I have nothing further to add other than thank you, for your contributions to our work at The Universal Design Project, for doing this research, and for sharing your findings with our listeners. We wish you the absolute best and hope you’ll stay in touch as you continue to do cool things in the real and virtual world.
And listeners, you know, Sarah and I will be back with some listening goodness soon. In the meantime, take care.
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, [00:26:00] email us at [email protected].
Thanks for fitting us into your day!