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About J.L. Mueller, Inc.


2011 Universal Design Competition

2011 Include Conference

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Designing for Real People

Photo of a person struggling to pull open a heat-sealed plastic package containing printer cartridges"Just who is this thing designed for, anyway?"    How many times have we asked ourselves this question when struggling to open a package, read a label, or operate a new product? Design is supposed to fit the "average" user. If we're not lucky enough to be average, we have to adapt to the design. Depending on how well we can adapt, these struggles can be just minor annoyances or exhausting, frustrating, even dangerous ordeals.

Photo of a person trying to twist a door knob while holding two bags of groceries During the course of our lives, we find ourselves less able to adapt to design. It's harder to read small print in a dark room, and harder to open a door while carrying groceries. As we age, these everyday tasks may become harder still.

"Universal Design" means design for people of all ages and abilities, not just "average" people. No design fits everyone all the time, but designing for the largest possible number of users is a goal worth striving for. For this reason, some feel that it's more appropriate to describe it as a process of "Universal Designing".

Universal Design of Products
Photo of an Oxo vegetable peeler with a large, ribbed handle.  Above the photo is the Oxo Good Grips brand name. Oxo "Good Grips", kitchen utensils originally designed in 1989 for users with arthritis, quickly became popular among cooks of all ages and abilities. By 2000, Oxo products had reached $60 million in annual sales.

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Universal Design at Work

Hundreds of thousands of workers each year leave the workforce due to disabilities. Universal Design at Work means not only reducing the risk of injuries, but also retaining workers still capable of working, with reasonable accommodation.

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Line drawing of a computer workstation.  Arrows point to job accommodations shown in the drawing.

About This Site

This site is about the practice of Universal Design - designing for people of all ages and abilities, both in design of consumer products and in workplace design and job accommodation.

This site provides reasons why Universal Design is important, Principles of Universal Design, and case examples of how Universal Design is improving the usability of products and workplaces for people of all ages and abilities.

This site shares more than 20 years of experience in design and disability consulting at J.L. Mueller, Inc. and from colleagues, publications, and other resources around the world.


James Mueller
J. L. Mueller, Inc.
(703) 222-5808
(703) 378-5079 Fax


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4717 Walney Knoll Ct.
Chantilly, VA 20151