085: UD and Me: Joe Shotts

Good Fit Poor Fit
Good Fit Poor Fit
085: UD and Me: Joe Shotts

Show Notes:

Disability Solutions


Sarah: ​[00:00:00] You’re listening to Good Fit Poor Fit. Our podcast is part of The UD Project, a small business rooted in occupational therapy that looks at how the design of a home environment impacts how well people of different ages and abilities perform everyday activities. We chat about this unique perspective to boost your knowledge and help you consider what can be changed in communities like yours.

Learn more about our work at universaldesign.org.

Rebecca: Hey listeners, we’re back with another episode of UD and Me, but this time with a student of mine, Joe Shotts. I’m really excited for you listeners to hear his story and what brought him to the world of universal design. He’s excited, passionate, and driven to make the world a more inclusive space. But before I go on too much about him, let me pass it on to Joe and let him tell you about [00:01:00] himself in his own words.

Joe: Hi, Sarah, Rebecca, and Good Fit Poor Fit listeners. I’m thrilled to be here on your podcast. I’m Joe Shotts, born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania. As us OTs say, maintaining occupational balance is important. So some of the hobbies that I do in my free time are exercise, specifically biking, watching movies, playing video games, and spending time with my girlfriend, who is also currently in OT school.

I graduated from undergrad at Penn State University with a degree in kinesiology and a minor in biology. I’m currently attending Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I am a part of the inaugural cohort in the OTD program in my final semester, where we are completing our capstone project.

I’m completing my capstone project with Rebecca and the Disability Solutions team. The purpose of my capstone project is to create a universal design assessment to systematically evaluate and measure an organization’s preparedness and willingness to adopt and integrate universal design principles across this environments and services.

The assessment aims to identify [00:02:00] strengths, gaps, and opportunities within an organization and develop strategies to enhance accessibility, inclusivity and usability for all individuals, regardless of their abilities, backgrounds, and needs.

Sarah: Well, Joe, we are so glad to have you contribute to our podcast. I know that you are learning so much from Rebecca and her team. I think the tool that you’re creating will be really helpful for a lot of organizations as they’re preparing to jump into all the details of UD within their work. There are so many different ways people become interested in UD and the aspects that it covers from physical environments to learning and inclusive experiences. So Joe, what’s your UD story? How did these concepts take root in your life and interests?

Joe: So I became interested in universal design through a combination of academic exploration in real-world experiences. My academic background in occupational therapy exposed me briefly to the principles of universal design and the importance of creating environments, [00:03:00] products, and services that are accessible to a diverse range of users.

Additionally, my personal experiences interacting with individuals with varying abilities underscore the significance of incorporating universal design principles in all aspects of life. In our first or second semester, I had the opportunity to listen to Rebecca present her OT capstone project and her love for universal design.

The presentation left me fascinated and intrigued by the endless possibilities in which universal design can make an impact. Witnessing the positive impact that inclusive design can have on people’s lives and fostering equality and accessibility fueled my passion for UD. Moreover, I am drawn to the innovative and creative aspects of universal design.

The challenge of developing solutions that seamlessly integrate accessibility without compromising aesthetics or functionality intrigues me.

Rebecca: I love hearing stories like this where OT students who are in school to become clinicians also have their minds open up to other related fields like UD and occupational [00:04:00] justice, both of which I know we’ve touched on in our work together, Joe. I also like how you’re drawn to the creative aspect of universal design because I think it’s an important piece of the puzzle to think about.

How can we make things that look aesthetically pleasing but that are also flexible and intuitive and inclusive in their design?

Sarah: And I also love that your knowledge is branching out to more aspects than just the built environment. There are so many processes and systems in our communities that UD can apply to and how important that is for a wide variety of people to participate in life. Us OTs, we really love to look at all those details and do those activity analysis for how all of those components interact and how they directly relate to people’s ability to participate well. I’m curious, Joe, when thinking about the community as a whole, what is your favorite non- home related UD feature, product, or place?

Joe: So this is a very interesting question. I feel the one feature that [00:05:00] I have and would like to continue to see improvements in is a more accessible space in public transportation. Universally designed transportation holds importance in fostering an inclusive and equitable society. Individuals may not have access to a private form of transportation to travel from place to place and may rely on a form of public transportation.

Universally designed transportation systems would provide equal access for all. It guarantees that individuals of all abilities can navigate, access, and use the public transportation system with dignity and independence. From an OT standpoint, engaging in activities of daily living independently is an important factor in living an enriching and meaningful life.

Accessible and universally designed transportation would also improve social inclusion among individuals with disabilities. Accessible transportation enables individuals to actively participate in community activities, employment opportunities, and social events. When completing my Level 2 fieldwork in an outpatient neuro rehab clinic, a lot of the clients utilized [00:06:00] and relied on public transportation to attend their sessions.

I noticed that individuals who relied on the busing system were often late or reported a negative experience. I think with some education and a little input from OTs and experts in universal design, transportation could become widely accepted and improved.

Rebecca: Yes, yes, yes. I could not agree more with this perspective. Transportation is such a critical, yet I think often overlooked, part of the inclusion puzzle. I actually learned a lot about public transportation barriers in a recent project I was working on. Just like you noted, many aspects of air, rail, and ground travel are filled with barriers for people with disabilities. These barriers can include issues with the lack of available forms of transportation, physical accessibility, and cost. And even when public transportation is available, it can present a challenge for people with disabilities. Public transit systems vary greatly from location to location, with many cities lacking quality public transit systems [00:07:00] completely. And that’s just basic public transportation, not even specifically designed accessible transportation support. In that realm, paratransit is a federally mandated component of any public transportation system. Paratransit provides free or reduced-cost access to accessible transportation for people with disabilities, but it can only operate within three-quarters of a mile of another public transit line or stop. Because of this and other stipulations related to how power transit services are delivered, it’s often the case that even if both public and paratransit systems exist, there’s still limited access to reliable transportation for people with disabilities. So yeah, we could use some more universal design in that realm of our society for sure.

Sarah: Oh, man. Yeah. Transportation. That is a big topic and it’s a big issue to figure out. In our medium-sized town in Virginia, public transportation and even paratransit is only available [00:08:00] in the city. The county doesn’t even have that as an option. So many people who can’t drive due to vision, cognition, or even the inability to transport their heavy mobility equipment due to lack of an accessible vehicle often find themselves stuck unless they can get a ride, or they try to make the way to town themselves. I could talk forever on this topic, but public transit and like you said, air, and rail are one of those topics that many advocates are working on new designs and strategies to accommodate more people. Joe, tell me more about your UD favorites, but this time in the home.

What is one of your favorite home-related UD features?

Joe: My favorite home-related UD feature is roll-in showers with zero threshold entry, which promotes inclusive bathrooms. Bathing is an activity of daily living that provides hygiene and cleansing, relaxation and stress reduction, improved sleep quality, pain relief, enhanced blood circulation, wound [00:09:00] and injury care, and helps keep the skin clean and hydrated.

One of the key attributes is barrier-free entry. The zero threshold entry eliminates the need for steps or raised edges. Safety and fall prevention are important factors that stand out in my mind. The absence of a threshold minimizes tripping hazards and enhances safety within the bathroom. The inclusivity ensures that the space is easily navigated by people who use wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids, fostering independence and equal access.

A roll in shower promotes versatility and lifelong use by accommodating the diverse needs of individuals over the lifespan. It goes beyond addressing immediate mobility challenges and anticipates the changing requirements due to aging or mobility issues.

Sarah: Joe, I really love that you added even more benefits to this important home feature. Many times we think of a zero-step shower and conversation as a safety feature, which you highlighted too, but it also just has so many other benefits like you [00:10:00] mentioned. I especially like your mention of stress reduction, improved sleep, and improved care for skin. Many people associate the shower with a stressful situation, especially if they need help getting in or need help taking care of the task of bathing. Removing as many barriers as possible helps people receive more benefits to do this task with ease in their daily routine. I know so many people without disabilities who just love to see a walk in shower and they see it as a luxury and usable by most. My five year old even loves to take a shower under the constantly running water and as a kid running around like crazy just before bed, it does help her calm down and get a better night’s rest.

Rebecca: That’s definitely true. There are tons of benefits to a zero barrier shower, including the fact that if you’re not in fact a human parent, but a dog parent, it’s much easier to give them [00:11:00] a bath in a, in a shower that doesn’t have a step as well. So thank you for raising all of those awesome points. I’m going to pass it back to Joe to wrap up, but we’re so glad that you were able to join us today and share a little bit about your universal design story.

Joe: Yeah, thank you, Sarah, Rebecca, and Good Fit Poor Fit listeners for providing me with the opportunity to share my story and growing interest in the universal design field. I had a great time discussing some important home and non-home UD features that have stood out to me during my didactic coursework, level 2 fieldwork, and while working with Rebecca during my capstone experience.

I’m excited to see the impact that universal design and occupational therapists can make in the world of accessibility.

Sarah: Thanks for listening to Good Fit Poor Fit. If you want to learn more… first, find more episodes with transcripts and show notes at goodfitpoorfit.com. Don’t forget to subscribe! Second, check out our courses at go.universaldesign.org.

We cover housing topics like advocacy, collaboration, [00:12:00] home modification, universal design and task adaptations. Lastly, if you have questions or topics you’d like us to discuss, email us at [email protected]. Thanks for fitting us into your day.


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