Unintentional Universal Design: Two Manly Products to Make You Grunt.

Adjustable Ergonomic Crowbar

Guys like the feeling of getting stuff done, especially when they can use toys tools that conjure up those Tim Allen grunts. Here are two products that might just help with that. There are some characteristics of each that reflect principles of universal design, whether intentional or not.

#1: An Ergonomic Crowbar.

I love Fast Company’s description of this thing: “Destruction in Comfort.” Most of us understand that the purpose of crowbars is tearing stuff up – removing nails, prying boards apart, etc. It’s almost surprising that there aren’t many options out there that make this a little easier than what the typical steel models offer.

Try the new 209 adjustable wrecking bar from Hultafors and there’s no turning back. The unique design and revolutionary features will facilitate your work in a variety of situations. How? The advanced wrecking bar made of high-quality steel can be adjusted in nine steps, ensuring an optimum working position for the task at hand. (source)

Universal design is [partially] about making products more usable for the greatest amount of people possible. Think about what this means. In this case, it’s not about making a disability-specific tool, but rather one that’s easier to use and has some extra flexibility of ways to use it.

Crowbar FlexibilityThe addition of a rubber grip that’s shaped to contour someone’s hand seems rather simple – and it is – but when the “normal” crowbar isn’t, the benefits are immediately obvious. The ability to have a more secure grip is inherently going to make the product more useful. Think about people who have decreased grip strength, arthritis, or other conditions that affect usability of the hands.

Secondly, look at the articulating claw. The idea behind this is pure ergonomics, but from a universal design standpoint, being able to use the crowbar from a comfortable position (versus awkwardly contorting your arms to get in the best position) not only offers added flexibility of use mentioned above, but allows people to use it more safely.

Product Link: Hultafors Adjustable Wrecking Bar 209 SB

#2: A Robotic Lawn Mower.

Lawnbott SpyderEVOHELLO, a freaking robot mower?!? Talk about a great toy tool, especially for those uncomfortably hot summer days when you just want to stay inside in front of the TV with a cold one. Sure, there’s the sweaty, smelly, manly element of yard work that has its appeal, but sometimes it’s just better to have an option of getting a job done easily.

The LB1500 SpyderEVO is the next generation in robot mower for typical suburban homes that bridges the gap between semi-automatic and fully automatic mowing. Simply turn it on and let the LB1500 cut your yard for up to 3.5 hours before needing to recharge. The optional docking station takes automation one step further allowing the LB1500 to dock and charge all on its own, ready for the next day! With its onboard bump sensors, the LB1500 will reverse direction when meeting obstacles in the yard and 4-wheel drive helps to cover almost any terrain. (source)

No, this isn’t a stretch to justify such a purchase to your wife. Let me tie this into my personal situation: I have a spinal cord injury that took away my ability to walk. Sure, there are riding mowers on the market that I can use (which will likely be the route Sarah & I go if/when we move from apartment/condo living into a house with a lawn that’d justify it), but what if a riding mower is impractical due to yard size? (or whatever reason) I can’t effectively use a push mower from a wheelchair. The LawnBott robots might just do the trick.

Here’s how it relates to universal design: these mowers allow “use” by a much greater amount of people than traditional mowers. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “of course they do because they’re pretty much hands-off.” So? Think about how they might offer people who have various physical challenges to get their grass cut without having to hire someone else to to the job for them. That in itself has a positive psychological benefit of feeling more independent with taking care of daily tasks, and we’re ALL about increasing independence. If a robotic mower provides that, great!

Product link: LawnBott LB1500 SpyderEvo

Oh… and in case you didn’t click the Tim Allen link at the beginning of the post…