As health care professionals and interior designers seek to accommodate obese individuals, furniture should emphasize the similarities among people rather than draw attention to their differences, said Debbie Breunig, RN, BSN, MBA, and VP of health care for KI, Green Bay, Wis, at a recent conference.

The importance of universal seating and design for bariatric patients and family members was the focus of Breunig’s keynote address at the Interior Design Educators Council South Regional Conference at Auburn University, Auburn, Ala. Educators, administrators, and graduate students from colleges and universities throughout the Southeast attended the event.

“KI leads the way with its recognition of our oversized way of living and the importance of creating furniture that is comfortable and accepting for people of all sizes,” said Paula Peek,  associate professor and program coordinator of the Interior Design program at the university. She says the company is shattering stereotypes, breaking down barriers, and opening minds by redefining seating as a universal experience.

To demonstrate KI’s approach to universal seating that serves obese and average-sized people equally well, Breunig discussed KI’s new Arissa collection, which uses a universal form that comfortably accommodates virtually any body type. She says it enables interior designers to create a consistent look and feel throughout a health care facility, adding that many bariatric seating options represent one-off, large-size pieces from existing lines, making it difficult to establish a seamless aesthetic.

 “This is an aspect of design that has often been overlooked in studio projects and as we focus on universal design responses, it is something that definitely needs to be taken into account,” says Hannah Mendoza, assistant professor, Savannah College of Art and Design.