Meeting Individual Needs
The Universal Design Process
We teach our students
that design begins
with a problem. The
problems I started
with were the obstacles some of my
students encountered in being able to
draw, cut, paint, print, and manipulate materials on their own in my artroom. My artroom needed universal
By definition, universal design is
the creation of products and environments meant to be usable by all people without the need
for alterations or Universal design is the
adaptations. In the 1970s the late Ron creation of products and
Mace, an architect environments meant to
and founder of the be usable by all people
Center for Universal without the need for
Design at North alterations or adaptations.
Carolina State University, combined
the words “universal” and “design” to
describe what has become a standard
of usability for everyone.
2 Prototype Two
While in a grocery store I found
another coupon clipper with interesting features and a thicker body. This
design included a replaceable blade.
I glued three wooden spools onto
the bottom. The tool stood upright,
glided, and cut paper.
Problem: The tool glided sideways,
tearing the paper, and the tool was
still difficult to grasp.
3 Prototype Three
The wooden wheels from Prototype
Two allowed the coupon clipper to
stand upright. I changed the spools
to Lego wheels, and the tool followed
a straighter path. I sculpted Crayola
Model Magic for an upright handle.
This provided one of the handle features necessary for grasping.
Problem: The wheels were still not
gripping the table surface. The handle
needed to be more adaptable to allow
for different grasping positions.
Some of the problems my students
have encountered involve safety,
muscle fatigue, and the inability to
make certain tools function properly.
Cutting poses the greatest concern in
all three areas. Scissors are believed
to have originated during the Bronze
Age, about 3000 BC, and, in the eighteenth century, steel replaced bronze
and iron blades. Even with advances
in technology, the design of scissors
has remained virtually the same
for decades, but the user has not.
Although adaptive scissors have been
available, each tool has a specific
design for a particular ability.
Human factors such as safety and
mobility for all users should be con-
sidered in tool design. Some students
move their arms best from side to side
while others pull their arms toward
themselves. How students move their
fingers, hands, wrists, and arms will
affect how they are able to make a
tool function. A student who has no
fingers or whose
hand has been
damaged by fire
will obviously find
I saw a need
for new adaptive
scissors with a
that could allow anyone, at any age
and any ability the opportunity to cut
safely with independence. My designing process went through several prototypes over six years.
1 Prototype One
The adaptive scissors prototype
started in 1998 with a coupon clipper.
The blade was tucked into the base of
the tool, allowing for some safety.
Problem: The scissors needed to
stand upright to be ready for use.
The body of this tool was too thin to
attach wooden spools for legs to support an upright position and this tool
was too difficult to hold.
4 Prototype Four
The wheels were changed to a textured tread. I removed part of the
plastic body of the clipper with
a hacksaw and pushed PVC pipe
through the Model Magic handle.
I estimated that this handle could
adapt in at least four different ways
for both right- and left-handed students. Velcro® could also be added to
support a grip. The first patent was
based on this model, and an engineering company was contacted to pre-