Feature Articles - Housing
Universal design gifts improve ease of use for people of all ability levels
"This year, consider buying universal design products for family and friends,” says University of Missouri Extension Housing and Environmental Design Specialist Marsha Alexander. These are products designed to assist people who may have difficulty with hearing, memory, mobility, vision and more. Based on a nationally accepted standard of seven design principles established by a group of product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, these products accommodate a wide range of abilities and continue to meet the needs of people as their abilities change. “They are intended to benefit everyone, not just the elderly or physically challenged,” says Alexander. “These products and designs are comfortable to use, convenient and safe. They are not just for people with disabilities.”
Often people think it will cost thousands of dollars to retrofit
an existing home to be more usable for someone who has physical
challenges. Yes, redesigning entrances to provide an alternative
to steps and widening doorways is costly. However, it is not expensive
to replace door knobs with lever door handles making accessibility
much easier. This change will provide a grandparent with arthritis
or a busy homemaker with an armful of laundry a much easier option.
Single-lever controls compared to dual controls on kitchen and lavatory
faucets provide easier usage and make adjustment of water temperature
and output simple for everyone.
Compare products you are considering for safe and easy use. For
example, if you were buying a rain gauge, look for one that is large
with large print. A more traditionally designed gauge will be small
with small print that is harder to read at a distance. A universal
designed calculator will have large buttons making it easier to
enter numbers accurately. It will also have a high contrast and
large display so that it is easy to read. By comparison the more
traditionally designed calculator will have small buttons and a
low contrast and small display making numbers difficult to see.
Kitchen tools are often popular stocking stuffers. Consider the
ease of use for these products. For example, a standard vegetable
peeler is often a small, metal-handle tool that can be slippery
and uncomfortable to grip. A universal design peeler will have a
cushioned handle that is comfortable to grip. A standard measuring
cup will often have small lettering making it difficult to read.
A universal designed measuring cup will be easy to read and you
can see accurate measurements when the cup is sitting on the counter.
Buying universal designed products will make simple tasks easier for those who receive your gifts. Products and designs that allow for long-term use are also smart investments.
For more information on universal design products, contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center at (816) 482-5850 or visit the web site at http://extension.missouri.edu.
Source: Marsha Alexander, Housing and Environmental Design Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last update: Monday, December 07, 2009