The Waiting Room

Strange things happen in a waiting room.

Recently I had an all day session in a waiting room at the Eye Clinic. Successful outcome but still a long day.

The staff were helpful and considerate and the venue was both comfortable and cheerful.

But there is nothing like a long day of medically induced blindness to open the mind to the possibility of what total dependence on others might feel like. 

Here’s what unfolded:

The first waiting room was the ‘people sorting room’. Clients were escorted by welcoming staff into a variety of secondary waiting rooms according to what specialist they were assigned or for scheduled treatment.

My ‘second’ waiting room offered comfortable chairs and a vantage point to watch staff scurrying purposefully between treatment rooms. I noticed they went about their routines without making eye contact and my only guess was that they were avoiding all our expectant ‘pick me next’ looks. 

The process required multiple rounds of eye drops, assessments and re-encounters with the waiting room. Our ‘client’ demeanour slowly changed into the appearance of ‘patients’ as shuffled back to our chairs to wait.

The realisation

Totally bored with my induced temporary blindness I peered around the waiting room and suddenly realised there was an abundance of reading material available!

How could any patient read the advertisement posters adorning the walls? The topics were unreadable, the images undetectable. The magazines remained untouched and neatly stacked on every table top.  Even the politely muted TV talk show offered stark white captioning for the patients in the waiting room. 

As the day progress the patients began to morph into ‘inmates’. Now imprisoned by temporary blindness and wild imagination of the diagnosis we now stared blankly at our shoes.

The escape plan

My first escape plan involved listening to my current audio book on my iPhone but that thought was dashed with the realisation that I had left my earphones in the car and had no idea where to locate my husband. Using the speaker was not an option because I feared the next chapter was the long awaited passionate event between the two lead characters. About time I thought – but not really the time or place.

My second escape plan from my confinement came in the guise of a tour of the toilets. The thought of testing the efficiency of the soap dispenser, experimenting with the flow of the automatic taps and making informed comparisons of the hand dryer seemed like a good idea for a while. However, it dawned on me that with my loss of independence, a cheery assistant would be employed to oversee my transit. My appeal for parole was temporarily shelved but I smirked a smile of satisfaction at the possibility of a brief opportunity to escape from the waiting room. 

The challenge
Purring crazy cat by @iMerinet
Purring crazy cat by @iMerinet

I thought of the crazy fabric creation fashioned by my friend Meridith Ebbs at #HopperDownUnder and knew it would have given me a welcomed distraction.

Imagine a rack of student created tactile books. Prototypes containing pages with lights, buzzers and vibrations intended for use in assistive technology for blind children.

Or a table with simple plug-n-play audio magazine devices. Students are always keen for a captive audience (using the term with vigour) to provide feedback on their design projects.

This could be a real problem scenario for your students to consider and put on their design thinking hats to identify the problem in a variety of “How might we …” statements.

What are your thoughts? Add them to the comments below and subscribe to keep up with more great ideas and think-alouds.

2 thoughts on “The Waiting Room”

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