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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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Lost power Saturday, so we went to Sarah’s folks since they had power and a propane generator, should power fail. We’re addicted to electriciy and connectivity I guess. We’re back home again for the evening (Sarah is heading out tomorrow at 5AM to CA) and have power, but as of writing it sounds like there are still several thousand folks in the county and immediate area without power, after three days. Now, when the remnants of Ernesto came through, it knocked down all sorts of wires and trees, blocking roads everywhere and so forth; Sarah got a little upset when we drove under some downed lines, but we found a way out.

But, that’s not really where I was going with all of this. While at my in-laws, we were playing with the jacuzzi heater controls, and Sarah’s mother confessed that she couldn’t even read the controller; it was placed at about 5.5 feet from the ground, and the viewing angle on the LCD was such that one could only see the text on-screen from that height and above. Now, had somebody put this controller at about 5-foot height, this would not have been a problem at all, but instead, it’s impossible for Sarah’s mother to read the pool/spa controller without standing on a stool. As a further example of stupidity, the cabinet door opens right onto this controller, putting it at risk, and preventing the cabinet from opening fully. Doubly dumb. Push the controller down a fit, and everything would be cosy. Looking down a little bit more for somebody tall is also no big deal.

This all got me wondering why there isn’t some sort of “housing UI best practices guidebook” for construction people. These things would standardize the height at which controllers (security systems, pool controls, sprinkler controls, fuseboxes, telecom boxes) are put, the level at which power outlets are put, wall switches are put, and so forth. It would lay out where it makes the most sense to locate switches in a room, such that they would be easy to find in an emergency, or that somebody in a wheelchar could conceivably use them.

This is not to say I’m fighting for some new regulatory step for how houses have to be designed, but somebody could do a lot of good by covering a whole bunch of common sense best practices together (eg “Design Patterns” in the software engineering world — stuff that seems obvious once you use it, or you see somebody who does, but that may not otherwise happen spontaneously). An interesting source for this would be ADA regulations; this may be a bit extreme at first, but my hunch is that an ADA-compliant household would probably be easier for the average person without a disability to use as well. Has anybody had experience with this sort of thing, or is there a book or guide for this stuff already?