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 and welcome back for yet another special episode in our series, UD and Me. Today we’ll be introducing you to Kaylee Clark. She is a student in occupational therapy and she’s getting her doctorate from the University of Central Arkansas, and she has a passion in advocating for occupational therapists to be a part of the design world and has already gotten her feet wet at some networking at a recent design event called High Point Market, and she was talking about UD and Aging in Place with the interior designers there. So [00:01:00] welcome Kaylee, and feel free to share a little bit more about yourself with our listeners and why you are excited about Universal Design.
Kaylee: Hello everyone. Thank you for having me, Sarah. I am excited to be working with The Universal Design Project for my capstone in advocating for OTs role in universal design and Aging in Place concepts. I have completed both of my level two fieldworks in both acute care and early intervention settings. I have one more semester left where I’ll be completing my capstone project, then graduating and sitting for the NBCOT. Outside of school, I enjoy working out, cooking in the backyard with my husband, taking my German Shepherd on walks and going to coffee shops. My capstone started out as a project, but quickly turned into what felt like a calling. When I was on my acute care rotation, I kept noticing re-hospitalizations of patients from falling in their home simply because it was not functional, accessible, or safe. I thought to myself, there has to be a better way occupational therapists [00:02:00] can assist individuals within their home to avoid this process. When it was time to conduct research for my capstone, I noticed a huge gap in the literature on occupational therapist’s role in accessible home designs. I was immediately fascinated and fell in love with the idea of coupling design and the occupational therapy profession. For my capstone, I’ll be creating an all-inclusive manual on OTs role in accessible homes, getting my CAP certification, and collaborating with the UCA Interior Design department. In addition, I have also partnered with The Universal Design Project to gain knowledge, understanding, and experience about occupational therapists utilizing universal design, and what all that entails. The funny thing is I was actually already listening to the Good Fit, Poor Fit podcast before I even realized they were accepting students. I enjoyed listening to the podcast during my daily walks to learn as much as I could about universal design before starting my project. As of now, I have already been able to network [00:03:00] with many senior living interior designers around the world at High Point Market in North Carolina, and speak about my capstone to local entrepreneurs at a chamber event. I am passionate about what I do and who I serve. So like I mentioned earlier, this does not feel like schoolwork to me. The Universal Design Project felt like a perfect fit because I felt as if their entire mission revolved around taking action. We know the facts, we know the demand. Now it’s time to try and make a difference.
To me, a universally accessible home is when anyone across the lifespan has safe and functional access around the entire area. In order to have the opportunities and experiences they desire. This does not have to resonate with shiny silver grab bars. This can mean having your friends and family over so that everyone is able to function, transition, and move about the home with ease. This can include aesthetically pleasing colors with contrast for highly used spaces, wider doorways and halls, assistive technology in the home, various [00:04:00] countertop heights, along with so much more. I’m excited to learn, collaborate, and hopefully help close the gap between OTs role in universal design and accessible housing alongside The Universal Design Project.
Rebecca: Well, Kaylee, it sounds like you are in the right place, and we’re so flattered that you were listening to us before you even landed here. I can hear your excitement and passion for this work, and I’m really glad that you’re here to do this with us and to dig into some of those interests. But first, let’s nerd out a little bit about universal design.
What’s your favorite non-home-related universal design feature?
Kaylee: I would have to say my favorite non-home UD feature would be a mixture of different universal design concepts between the use of color, lighting, and truncated domes. This may seem random, but many of these ideas when used properly, are beneficial for individuals across the lifespan with or without disabilities, low-vision deficits, and even more specifically, the [00:05:00] geriatric population. Color can be used in both residential or commercial areas to give off a feel of mood, provide contrast for safety to reduce falls in accidents, or simply bring aesthetics to a space. Not only is having enough lighting important, but various different types of lighting in a space should be considered as well. These types can include artificial, task, natural, and ambient lighting. By trying to incorporate all of these different types of lighting, there will be enhanced perception, overall brightness, and ability to perform specific tasks more easily. Last truncated domes are a feature I have always noticed, but it was never brought to my attention that it was a universal design feature. For those who do not know, truncated domes are those yellow raised dots outside of the stores that make a really loud noise when you walk your grocery cards across. These serve as a detectable warning system that you are crossing the street to ensure those who are blind or have low vision can [00:06:00] indicate when they’re about to cross the road for safety. Having all of these features in a community space would be very beneficial and functional for every user.
Sarah: Great talking points, Kaylee! Lighting is so important and it’s very apparent when it’s not done well. When various types of lighting are used to help people see when they’re walking or doing specific tasks, it’s almost like this UD feature of light is invisible because all the barriers are missing and it’s not creating more barriers. Colors and texture play an important role in our mood and experience, like you said, and it plays a role in so many different places from doctors offices to big box stores. Those truncated domes in curb cuts like you were talking about, are definitely good for many uses. We actually use that with our daughter when she’s riding her bike as an indicator that she needs to stop and look for traffic before crossing the street.
It’s a safety feature in so many ways. Now let’s mosey on over to looking at design features associated with the home. [00:07:00] I’d love for you to share with us and our listeners about a favorite UD concept or product for a home setting.
Kaylee: I could go on and on about answering this question because there are so many different features and concepts that are great for the home. However, I would have to say overall my favorite UD concept or feature would be a step-free entry into the house. This does not mean you have to have a big unaesthetic ramp outside of your homes. Homes that are built from the start to follow universal design features will have a no-step entry. From individuals using a wheelchair as transportation to rolling a stroller in the home or even carrying groceries in. It simplifies the home and allows for increased independence, especially since multi-generational homes are becoming more popular and will continue to grow. I’m currently reading a book called “The Boom,” by Lisa M. Cini, and she compares not having the right features or technology in your home to eating [00:08:00] soup with a fork. I know this is so true for many occupational therapists who are trying to advocate and educate others on the importance of universal design concepts within the home and how well it can benefit the residents as well as their family and friends.
Rebecca: Well, isn’t that an interesting analogy from the book you’re reading? I really like it. It reminds me of the whole concept of The Social Model of Disability, where people are disabled by their environment, including the equipment in that environment, as opposed to having something within them that makes it hard to function.
Also great shout to the zero step entry. It’s a universal design favorite of mine too. Since I have been known to trip on a stair or two! But anyway, Kaylee, thank you so much for sharing your UD origin story with us and I can’t to see what comes out your time here at The Universal Design Project. And thanks for listeners for tuning in. Take care, and we’ll be back in your feed soon![00:09:00] 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].
Sarah: Thanks for fitting us into your day!