Building a Better World Through Universal Design (quiz make-up)

The advancement of assistive technology requires the perceptive eye of someone who recognizes problems from the perspective of those with disabilities. Often times, we try to find problems and create solutions from our own lens, instead of exploring other facets of life that affect those unlike us. Using the principles of Universal Design, I have noticed problems within MIT’s community that could be solved to allow more accessibility for people with disabilities. For instance, size and space for approach and use would dictate that the buttons on building 3 elevators could be lower for little people or those in wheelchairs. There are some areas on campus that do not have ramps despite the high density of people traversing those places, an example of improving the equitable use on campus. In addition, to improve upon the principle of low physical effort, making doors that aren’t so heavy for people with physical disabilities could make their lives much easier.

In addition to improving my perception, the laws of Universal Design have also improved my ability to design our product for Jim. For example, the principle of flexibility in use, helped my team and I recognize that we needed to tailor the shape and opening of Jim’s cardholder to the differing abilities of each arm. More specifically, the cardholder’s orientation and position on his half-table is such that Jim can use his less dexterous arm to slide the card out toward his more dexterous arm (left), in order to grab the card. Moreover, the principle of low physical effort inspired us to make the coefficient of friction between card sleeves low, and make his cardholder short, so he could effortlessly reach his right arm over the cardholder and slide his cards out with ease.

Ultimately, understanding Universal Design not only makes one more perceptive of the issues people with disabilities face; it makes you a better engineer, able to effectively tackle problems that are not apparent at first glance.


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