Universal Design is for Everyone

In Disability, Writing (all kinds) on June 12, 2009 at 5:34 PM

Michael Lam, who did his undergraduate degree in engineering at McMaster University, is doing his master’s degree at the Walter G. Booth School of Engineering Practice. This school is also affiliated with McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. His thesis is focusing on product design for people with disabilities.

“My project is revolving around designing art equipment for people with disabilities,” says Lam. “I’m still narrowing it down and interviewing people. Maybe I will be focusing on easels for painters, or photography or large cameras, like professional cameras.”

Lam started the program in September of 2008.

“One of the first things I’ve discovered is that there is a huge field of opportunity working with disabled people getting older. We’ve come a long way already, however there is not a lot of equipment and opportunities that are available for people with disabilities. For building accessibility.”

Lam’s program at McMaster is a year in length and he is under a tight three to four month timeframe to come up with his product design and report.

“I would come up with a design and a detailed report on it. All of the research I am doing now is identifying problems and looking at a wide variety of the things that need to be looked at. If there is time, then the design can be a prototype. We have a tight timeline so you have three to four months to actually work on the whole project.”

Lam, being a dancer and not disabled himself, came up with some resourceful ways to find people he could work with to test out his product design. He emailed the organization Linkup that finds jobs for people with disabilities and asked people to volunteer to help him with his research.

“[The response has been] very positive. I’ve been meeting people about every other day for a good week so far. The response has been very positive.”

After doing some more research, Lam is leaning towards focusing on easels for painting for his product design for people with disabilities.

“Universal Design is design for everyone, including people with disabilities. It is so people in a wheelchair can move in and anyone can move down a hallway. I feel it is important to be in constant contact with the people I am meeting with because I myself do not have a disability. For someone who has a vision impairment or multiple sclerosis they have trouble distinguishing contrast and universal design makes a big difference.”

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