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Tharanya Thillairajan

Tharanya Thillairajan

Profile Image of Tharanya Thillairajan

Meet Tharanya. She is researching how a fitness app might be accessible for people with disabilities. Through this project, Tharanya has been able to come out of her shell, improve her communication skills, and work with individuals who were passionate towards the project. She used the techniques taught in her Qualitative Methods course and applied them towards this project. Tharanya plans to work with nature, and perhaps, consider the role of a conservation biologist in the future.

Why did you choose York University? 

 I chose York University purely out of convenience. It is the closest post-secondary institution from my house and I wouldn’t have to worry about residing on campus or long commutes. A bonus though is the large number of students who also attend the school, there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people and network..

What project are you focusing on during your time in the Capstone course? 

The project that I am focusing on is: how might a fitness app be accessible for people with disabilities? There are 4 categories that each project falls under and our project is titled “Community Projects”. We decided that our target group will be individuals who use wheelchairs.

How does your project align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals? 

Our project aligns with “Good health and wellbeing” and “reduced inequalities”. With this app, we are hoping to break down the barriers that prevent people who use wheelchairs from leading an active lifestyle. Many gyms and workout facilities are inaccessible to wheelchair users, whether it’s entering/getting around the actual facility or using the machines. Many workout apps cater towards able-bodied people and we acknowledge that people with disabilities have particular needs that cannot be met with these apps and they also have the right to feel safe/comfortable working out. Our app uses very minimal equipment which can also be substituted for household items if affordability is an issue. Our workouts will be possible both at home and in a facility, wherever users feel comfortable working out.

Can you tell me one highlight about your experience in the Capstone course? 

My biggest highlight with my experience in the capstone project so far is seeing my personal progress. I tend to be a little bit more quiet and reserved but this course has brought me out of my shell a lot more. This course is also quite different from the rest of my experience in post-secondary and it is a challenge that I was up for. I have improved my communication skills, had the opportunity to speak up more often and share my thoughts and ideas, and make some great friends along the way! I’m grateful to be working with a group of kind, helpful individuals who have also taught me so many new things, and were open-minded and passionate about our project.

Can you share some skills you have acquired through the course that will help you in your career? 

For our project, we had to go through the Ethics Committee to approve of our primary research process where we would conduct surveys and interviews. I worked closely with another group member who has experience in this to put in our request and this was an interesting, yet challenging experience for me. Learning how to conduct ethical research was a rewarding yet tedious process with all the paperwork that had to be completed. For the future, I’m looking forward to learning more about coding and creating our fitness app.

How have you integrated your knowledge from the ENVS courses into the Capstone project? 

Since our project has little to nothing to do with the environment, I have been able to apply a lot of the technical skills that I have learned over the years to our project. In third year, we were required to take a Qualitative Methods course where we learned about ethical research and such. We conducted mock interviews and used the knowledge that we gained from them to write an essay. In the coming months, we will be interviewing physiotherapists to help us with our primary research. From the Qualitative Methods course, I know what kind of structure I should have when interviewing and some effective techniques to make the most out of the interview. Throughout the environmental studies program, I also had to write countless papers on various topics, so now I find myself taking on a lot of the paperwork and written portions of the capstone course, which I have been excelling in.

What is the biggest takeaway from your experience? 

My biggest takeaway from this experience would be the experience of working as a group at times, and in partners sometimes. My group consists of 6 other people and we all have various skills and talents that we bring to the table. Signing up for tasks where I get to work with someone else in my group has allowed me to learn so much from them. While our project may seem simple and straightforward, there are a lot of technical aspects to consider and a lot of work that happens behind the scenes and it is hard to tackle a lot of them alone. This course has allowed me to strengthen my collaboration skills, communication skills and adaptability, as well as use my skills to benefit the group and learn new things to challenge myself.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to enroll in the Capstone course in the future? 

My biggest advice to future capstone students is to take on a project that is different from your program! That was the advice that we commonly heard from capstone alumni and I am grateful that I took their advice because it has been very refreshing to focus on something different from what I have been learning for the past ew years. It would be ideal to pick a project where there is some emphasis on the environmental aspect, as there is a lot of intersectionality with every project. So don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and don’t underestimate yourself.

What career are you thinking about for the future? 

I’m not entirely sure what career I want to pursue, but it would definitely be in the conservation sector. I would like to work closely with nature and not only work in an office but change the scenery with different sites! Depending on how things go in the coming year, I am also considering the environmental science program to broaden my horizon and possibly pursue careers such as a conservation biologist.