FIND is a project of ASK Resource Center

Universal Design and Assistive Technology

What is universal design?

Universal design is a big idea that fits people of all sizes, ages, abilities and disabilities. It’s the idea that allows for a home to be ready for all people to access and use. It assures all can live safely and easily in the same home. Big ideas like universal design can cost a lot of money. Designing and building a new home is expensive. Making large renovations on an existing home can be costly too. But making small changes or adding assistive technology can help solve problems and create accessible housing for all.

Start at the Front Door

Making it easy for people to get into a home on their own is the first step. Adding a threshold ramp or a berm made from soil for a no-step entrance can help. A small portable ramp will cost less than building a full ramp. A good grip on the door is next. Adding a door adapter to a door knob gives people a better grasp when opening or closing the door. Or they can push the lever with an arm or elbow.

Door Adapter - AT4All Lending Library

What’s Up in the Kitchen

In an accessible kitchen, people can reach items in cupboards and on counter tops. Lower cupboards with pull-out shelves keep dishes and other items in reach. Clearing space on counter tops makes room for accessible appliances. Large buttons on new appliances are easy to read and use. Adding tactile markers or bright stickers with larger letters to old appliances is a less expensive option. A “reacher” will grab an item placed up high.

Reacher - AT4All Lending Library

Getting a Grip in the Bathroom

An accessible bathroom gives all people the space and safety they need there every day. Putting in a barrier-free shower allows users walk in and sit down in a shower chair to avoid falls. It also allows a person who uses a wheel chair roll in. If renovations aren’t possible, adding grab bars and a shower chair to an existing bathtub can help. Some grab bars grip walls with suction cups. These can be moved easily to meet the needs of many users. Shower chairs and grab bars can be purchased in stores or online. They may also be available through loan programs, such as the Easter Seals Iowa Assistive Technology Program or loan closets around the state.

Getting Help from Easter Seals Iowa Assistive Technology Program

Assistive Technology (AT) can help make a home—existing, new, or newly renovated—more accessible. At the Demonstration Center in Des Moines, staff at the Easter Seals Iowa Assistive Technology Program show people how AT items can help them stay independent and safe at home. Their Lending Library loans assistive devices free for 30 day trials. Their Durable Medical Equipment Program has recycled and refurbished items available for long term loan with a nominal fee. Borrowing an assistive technology item is a good way to find the best solution before purchasing it. 

For more information or to schedule an onsite visit, contact the Easter Seals Iowa Assistive Technology Program by calling 1-866-866-8782 (Toll Free), or 515-289-4069 (TTY) or emailing

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