To many, do-it-yourself renovation projects can be a costly headache waiting to happen.
But for Donna Ozawa, who can take a look at a person’s home and see potential for healthier living, it’s a real passion.
With two decades of experience in disciplines including sculpture, design and wheelchair engineering, Ozawa has helped people live more safely and comfortably in their residences. She received an executive certificate in home modification from the USC Davis School of Gerontology in 2012 and has worked with several professional and volunteer organizations to adapt home spaces to better fit residents’ needs.
The purpose of home modification projects — such as placing nonslip backing under floor rugs, installing grab bars for easy shower entry and exit or retrofitting entire houses to be wheelchair accessible — is to make tasks easier, reduce in-home accidents and support independent living.
Now a student in USC’s occupational therapy master’s class of 2015, Ozawa is pursuing a career that will allow her to seamlessly combine her experiences and interests to help people lead healthier, happier lives.
Occupational therapy is a health care profession that, among other things, modifies the interaction between the physical environment and an individual’s everyday activities.
“I wanted to make a connection between building and health care,” Ozawa said about why she chose to attend USC, home to the No. 1 occupational therapy graduate educational program, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Once on campus, Ozawa met fellow occupational therapy student Eun Kyung Bae, a Korean native who earned her undergraduate degree in woodworking and furniture design.
When an early semester assignment tasked students to analyze the impact of built environments on disability accessibility, it seemed fitting that Ozawa and Bae, who has a spinal cord injury and uses a power wheelchair, team up.
“Donna has a lot of tools at her house, but there are two steps to enter her house,” Bae said. “I’m sitting on a wheelchair, so we decided to make a [wheelchair] ramp.”