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Ohio AgrAbility

Ohio State University Extension


For the Garden

Benefits of using Universal Design in your garden:

  • Increase efficiency and ease of use
  • Provide a safer place to garden

Ideas for using Universal Design in your Garden

  • Lever style door handles, gate handles, and water faucets, wide doors and gates
  • Smooth transitions at entrances (no steps or barriers), smooth pathways between garden rows, limit changes in elevation
  • Clearly defined pathways and garden rows, motion sensor lights and well-lit work areas
  • Soaker hoses or in ground irrigation system
  • Store supplies & equipment in or near the garden


Container gardens can be placed anywhere, in any size space, and can be set at any height

  • Wood pallet gardens, window boxes, wall hanging gardens

  • Planting bags, hanging baskets, planting towers


Raised garden beds are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, those who can' t bend or kneel, and those who can't stoop or bend over a gar den bed

  • Raised beds should be 211•2 to 3 1 high, with leg room, and a depth of 2' - 3'
  • You should be able to reach the back of the bed while seated or standing

Good work habits

  • Work during the coolest time of the day- medication can cause sensitivity to heat or sun
  • Drink water! Medications ·can increase risk of dehydration
  • Switch tasks often, going from bending jobs to reaching jobs, switch which hands you use, and limit time spent doing tasks that require gripping, squeezing and grasping
  • Poor posture can lead to pain, fatigue, and strains - avoid sitting slouched over while working, and don't rest your weight on one leg or one arm while you work
  • Respect pain - Pain is the body's warning sign. When gardening causes pain, STOP

Protect your hands, elbows, shoulders and wrists

  • Keep wrist and hands in neutral position instead of twisting
  • Use grippy gloves to hold tools without exerting your hands and wrists
  • Minimize working with your hands above your shoulders, Try to limit lifting, reaching and pulling

Protect your back, knees and feet

    • When changing directions, turn with feet, not at waist, to avoid a twisting motion
    • Wear comfortable and supportive shoes with a good tread
  • Carry items close to your body, make more trips with smaller loads

Ergonomic tools are designed to keep the body in a neutral position

    • Made with large, soft handles for a better grip on the tool
    • Curved to fit the natural contour of the hand
  • long handled tools minimize the need to reach or stoop
    • Use tools with "spring action design'' to reduce hand strain

DIY Ergonomic tool options:

  • Wrap pipe insulation around handles to make them thicker and softer
  • Use PVC pipe to extend and/or contour tool handles - secure your DIY upgrades with duct tape
  • Bright colored (or glow in the dark) paint or tape on tool handles

Solutions for equipment and supply storage

  • Put heavy items on shelves the height or your cart for easy transfer of supplies
  • Rolling work seats often have some storage capacity
  • Use carts and wheelbarrows to haul heavy tools, supplies and plants

Tips for choosing the right cart or wheelbarrow

  • look for carts or wheelbarrows with removable back or front panels, and two or more wheels to provide stability and balance
  • Consider the weight of the cart & the supplies you will be hauling

Planning your garden for next year

  • Irrigation system or soaker hoses
  • Perennials and easy to care for plants
  • In-garden storage
  • Invite neighbors to help in the garde n