January 23, 2018

Try Before You Buy


You’re a construction worker, single and moving into a new rental apartment. Unknown to you it has been updated applying universal design. Not a bad place. Bigger bathroom, wider doors and hallways, everything is easier to reach. Different, but good. Then one day, oops, hernia. Back home after the hospital, whew, this apartment is really great! It’s making life easy as you recover, especially when coughing by itself is a chore, never mind having to manage the rest of day-to-day living. You later discover the apartment owner had renovated the apartment for his father and learn about universal design; forever you will include it in your life – it made that much of a difference.

Without having a hernia, how can you appreciate universal design? Here are a few games to try that take away some degree of mobility and foster an appreciation for designs that accommodate your changing condition:

  1. Tired legs: Add about 5-10 pounds to each leg – ideally use an ankle cuff weight and wear as much as possible. Discover the extra effort needed just to walk. Looking for elevators and benches now?
  2. Car-less: Leave the car at home for one week. Who’s driving you around? How convenient is public transportation?
  3. Arthritis: Invent ways to mimic the loss of grip with your hand or loss of mobility. Use medical tape to restrict your thumb or finger’s movement. Wear an undersized jacket from the thrift store and move without ripping the shoulder seams.
  4. Vision Impairments: Be responsible and safe with this one. Wear an eye patch and notice diminished depth of field. Wear sunglasses throughout the day and into the evening. How much more light is enough? To a pair of eyeglasses, (use non-prescription if you don’t have eyeglasses), smear a thin film of soap. Can you dial a phone number?

As you visit places, think about your mobility as if some aspect of your body was less than able. Remember that time when you had crutches. Or, observe how others are getting about. I see moms with strollers navigating the NYC subway – it’s a two-person operation and they struggle when on their own. Have fun; explore.