A Celebration of Veteran’s Day: Design Brings Better Health, Mobility & Independence

RTAblog_2012_1109_WoundedWarriorDiscusMore than ever, design is bringing better health, mobility and independence to America’s wounded veterans. In this image, Sgt. Delvin Maston launches a discus in the 2012 Warrior Games competition in Colorado Springs.

The base upon which Sgt. Maston is sitting enables him to regain some of the motion he enjoyed before his injury – thankfully, he’s still competing. As the design of products and our houses evolves, we’re doing a better job of accommodating the day-to-day needs of America’s wounded veterans.

Michael Graves is a well-known architect – even if you don’t know his name, you’ve probably seen his buildings or used one of the products he designed. They’re widely available from companies like Target. In 2003, an infection left him paralyzed from the chest down. He’s been in a wheelchair since he was released from the hospital. His experience was an awakening that allowed him to re-focus his design skill on improving the  lives of disabled people through better products.

In a partnership with the Wounded Warrior Home Project, Graves has expanded his work to include housing specifically for wounded veterans. Housing made accessible through universal design is of critical importance because it breaks down barriers – rather than relying on products to help you navigate through the home, the house works in concert with all the products to provide a holistic response to your needs. The Graves house is a great example of design and technology that will encourage even more improvements.

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In the image above (from left to right): Partners in research from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, Daniel Fisher and Dr. Rory Cooper pose outside the Patriot home with the architect, Michael Graves and Chief of the Integrated Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center, Colonel Paul Pasquina.

Universal design brings some challenges with it – it’s not appropriate for all situations. For example, a lower counter top in your bathroom (that no one else uses) may cause lower back strain as you lean over it to brush your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face, etc. RTA works to introduce universal design in areas where it’s appropriate. Be sure to ask your architect about the available solutions – there are a number of truly-universal design strategies (like no-step entrances) that can make your life easier, even if you’re able bodied.

You can support the Wounded Warrior project by visiting their website: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ You can probably also find a local project or wounded veteran that would appreciate some support.

First photo by Army Medicine used under creative commons license.

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