Necessity, as we’ve all heard a million times, is the mother of invention. University of New Mexico associate professor Heather Canavan’s Adaptive Biomedical Design program has taken that idea and applied it to finding ways to solve real-world problems for people with disabilities. She believes we need to break the cycle of solutions in the built environment that may be Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliant, but not actually disability friendly. Current solutions often focus on one disability, yet 75 percent of people with a disability have more than one. To that end she has begun working with students at UNM to develop prototypes that move beyond ADA specifications to create a more accessible environment through the implementation of practical retrofitting. It’s a bold idea driven by design, and she needs your help. Weekly Alibi sat down with Canavan to talk about her work and her team’s Adaptive Design Challenge this weekend.

Weekly Alibi: What is your program trying to accomplish?

Heather Canavan PhD: I had a really fundamental background in research. I was interested, and the 20 people around the world that read my papers were interested, but when I was out for my cancer treatment, I realized that there are a lot of things that just aren’t very well designed. It’s because there is a lot of push in science to look at the long problem. How are we going to cure cancer? How are we going to cure Alzheimer's disease? Those are the long reaching, overarching goals. I realized that’s mostly what I had been doing. I started thinking that there are a lot of problems that are very immediate and don’t seem quite as important. Those are the “dumb” problems I’ve been working on, but they’re not dumb when there is a quarter of the population that is going to have a disability.

Read more of the interview from Alibi here:

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