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Space and Empathy: Inclusive design requires the ability to see other people’s perspectives

Pattie Thomas, Ph.D. and Carl Wilkerson, M.B.A, a couple living with disabilities, chronicled their move to a more visitable home in an article they wrote for psychologytoday.com. Moving to an accessible home improved Pattie and Carl’s lives dramatically. Pattie can now enter her home through the front door, and help with most of the household chores. They both now spend more time at home because they can efficiently and independently cook and clean at home.

Simple things, like a no-step entry, wider doorways, and an open floor plan made Pattie and Carl’s life abundantly better. Although simple, these modifications were in the minds of designers and builders before they improved Pattie and Carl’s lives. These designers and builders understood how all users—with disabilities or without—will use the design. This required empathy. Before building “a designer has to put herself or himself into the place of the user and see how they will use the design in their everyday lives. Empathy is so important to design that it is the first step in Stanford’s Institute of Design’s iterative methodology model.” 

Building an EasyLiving Certified house that employs visitability and “universal design is social empathy in action. It asks of the designer to consider as many people as possible and to include their view of the world in the design.”

Read Pattie and Carl’s article here