A few days ago, I came across a Buzzfeed article about a home design app developed by Alzheimer’s Australia. It makes small and cheap suggestions on how to change the living environment to be more friendly to people with dementia. Imagine if we could implement some of these design factors immediately!
It ties into another topic of discussion. The train station projects continues at PhilaU. As part of the collaborative process, we invited the interior design and architecture students to a Disability Awareness Day. They were able to experience simulations of common conditions they should keep in mind when designing environments. The OT students had the opportunity to explain the role of OT in home design and modifications, and relate the symptoms of their chosen condition to the ability to function within a space. It was a huge success from all accounts. Many design students expressed surprise at the difficulties faced on a daily basis by people with disabilities and how the environment can be an inhibitor as much as a facilitator. Understandably, the simulations using walkers and wheelchairs were most surprising for them. However, many were also surprised at the difficulties surrounded low vision, stroke related vision impairments, and the amount of pain that comes with arthritis.
My students who were running the walker simulation and the low vision simulations also discussed the principles present on the home safety app. Specifically, the use of patterns and colors and how people with dementia process changes in flooring, be it colors, patterns, or transitioning between types, were of great interest and surprise to the design students.
The best line I saw on the feedback forms from design said [she] didn’t know how they ever designed without this knowledge. My students also expressed surprise at how easily our disciplines align.