General Course Information
Community Housing Data & Assessment
Elderly Housing Options & Preferences
Universal Design & Home Accessibility
Student Portfolios
Housing Information From ISU Extension
Links to Other Housing Information
HDFS Department Homepage

Better Tools for Everyday Tasks
Products with universal design features
  • make tasks easier for everyone.
  • accommodate a wide range of abilities.
  • continue to meet the needs of people
    as their abilities change.
  • are comfortable, convenient, and safe.
  • are attractive and appealing.
  • are not just for persons with disabilities.

Compare design features in the two columns below.
Which product do you prefer to use?

Item Traditional Design Universal Design
Products for bathroom
toilet tissue holder two hands and coordination are required to remove spring and replace roll of toilet paper roll is snapped into place using one hand
shampoo/soap dispenser both hands are needed to open and hold bottles soap is dispensed with push of a button; removes clutter
Products for living /sleeping areas
remote buttons are small; labels are difficult to see large buttons with good contrast are easy to distinguish by sight or touch
night light control may be hard to reach or operate, especially from seated positions can be turned off by touch; can be located within easy reach
Kitchen tools
measuring cups and spoons thin metal handles are difficult to grip; markings are difficult to see easy to grip, large plastic handles; large markings with good contrast are easy to see
vegetable peeler and paring knife small metal/wood handle is uncomfortable to grip handle with soft cushioned grip fits hand better
Cleaning tools
duster short handle limits reach handle extends to reach all areas
dustpan short handle; person must bend to use long handle eliminates bending
Home office products
phone large receiver is difficult to hold; small buttons are difficult to see and push handle fits hand; large easy-to-read numbers and large buttons; memory for personal & emergency numbers; amplified volume option
staple remover pinch fingers together to use staple is removed with one easy motion
scissors hand strength is required to open and close blades; handles have small finger holes with no cushion spring action reduces hand strength needed to opens blades; large handles have cushion grips; use with either hand
pen straight, hard plastic handle
difficult and uncomfortable to grip
curved and cushioned grip makes writing more comfortable
calculator numbers are small and difficult to see; buttons are small and close together large buttons are easier to push, large numbers on a flip up display are easier to see
wall clock small numbers with low contrast are difficult to see bold black numbers and hands on white background are easier to see
Outdoor tools
garden trowel wood handle uncomfortable to grip; becomes slippery, rough, and splintered with use handle with cushioned grip; non-slip material is more comfortable to use
rain gauge small numbers with no contrast are difficult to read large numbers and bright colored float are easily read from a distance
hose connector small and difficult to grasp large comfort grip allows use of whole hand to tighten connection
rake straight wood handle is uncomfortable to grip; causes back strain adjustable height, angled handle with cushion grips provides better body fit; reduces strain

Iowa State University Extension has not endorsed, recommended, nor certified any of these commercial products or devices as safe or effective. Other companies provide similar products. Product information and price quotes in this exhibit are subject to change.

For Information on:
  • Sources and prices of items in display.
  • Publications on universal design and home accessibility.
  • Monthly Home Planning Workshops (building a new home or remodeling).
  • The Iowa AgrAbility Project: a joint effort of Iowa State University Extension and the Easter Seal Society of Iowa's Farm Family Rehabilitation (FaRM) Program to help farm families affected by disabilities remain in their homes and on their farms.
ISU Answerline:
1-800-262-3804 Voice
1-800-854-1658 TDD


Iowa AgrAbility Project
1094 LeBaron Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011
Phone: 515-294-8522
FAX: 515-294-1908

HDFS-H-305 Rev.
July, 1999

Prepared by Laura Werner, Program Specialist, Rachel Huntoon, Program Specialist, and Mary H. Yearns, Associate Professor and Extension Housing Specialist, Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

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Contact: Mary Yearns