Thursday, January 31, 2013

The cumulative effect of small risks

While shower safety is not really his point, Jared Diamond provides a great example of how we mentally minimize risks by not factoring in how many times we are exposed to them:

“Really!” you may object. “What’s my risk of falling in the shower? One in a thousand?” My answer: Perhaps, but that’s not nearly good enough.
Life expectancy for a healthy American man of my age is about 90. (That’s not to be confused with American male life expectancy at birth, only about 78.) If I’m to achieve my statistical quota of 15 more years of life, that means about 15 times 365, or 5,475, more showers. But if I were so careless that my risk of slipping in the shower each time were as high as 1 in 1,000, I’d die or become crippled about five times before reaching my life expectancy. I have to reduce my risk of shower accidents to much, much less than 1 in 5,475.

Now, one way to mitigate this risk is to only shower once a month, whether I need it or not.  (Need, by the way, seems to be a subjective judgement.  It seems I'm quite content stretching the interval between showers out quite a ways--but my wife and children prefer I adhere to a much shorter cycle. Apparently they don't have my safety in mind. Humpfh) 

A much smarter way to address the issue and reduce risk is to change the environment in which you shower.  Modern surfaces with better slip resistance, nice grab bars, alcoves to keep things tidy, controls in easy reach.  These and other things will make for a much reduced cumulative risk.

The same applies to other areas--small changes, reducing what seem like small risks, that over time have a high likelihood of happening and bringing about nasty consequences.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Universal what? Smarter showers, please.

I try not to slam other people working in this space, but sometimes I see things that are held up as proper when they are not.  Now, the home in the article has some good things--pocket doors, for example.  But look at this "Universal Design" bathroom as it was called in the article in the Glenn Falls NY Poststar.  What's wrong?  Well, in my mind three things:
  1. The shower has a threshold.  Even if it is not to be used by someone in a wheelchair, it is an unnecessary tripping hazard. An integral shower pan, or even a no-threshold fiberglassunit like those from Best Bath, would have been a much better choice.
  2. The seat--small, irregular and slippery, and at the opposite end from the shower controls.  Those little built in seats are best used by young women propping up a leg to shave, not to sit on.
  3. Looks to me like the toilet is going to go right in front of the shower--further restricting access and potentially making the toilet slippery if it gets wet. 
We can learn from the mistakes of others as well as our own, so I'm posting the negative review of this work.  I hope there are not negative consequences for the homeowners here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

It's about spirit

I came across this post today from Universal Design Partners in Virginia.  Watch the videos--I was really moved by the spirit exhibited by the rehabilitatioin patients.

To me, that is one of the goals of our business-helping to maintain spirit. We hope that our clients who have impairments find them much less troublesome and that their environment is supportive. Constant struggle erodes the spirit, so we hope that minimizing the struggle helps maintain it.

And really, I applaud the patients at the Shepard Center (and the staff) for being willing to have some fun and put themselves out in the world.  Inspirational. Every remodeler and builder who works to create environments better suited to their client's abilities could stand to watch these and be reminded of the human spirit they are charged with protecting.