Known famously for their ready-to-assemble flat pack furniture, Swedish manufacturer IKEA isn’t exactly famous for being user-friendly for people with disabilities. Not only do you have to set up the products yourself, but some of the company’s lamps and cabinets have small switches or handles which are too difficult to work with for someone with a condition that impairs mobility, such as cerebral palsy.

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The ThisAbles project doesn’t remedy the do-it-yourself nature of IKEA products, but it does make them easier to use for the disabled. In conjunction with non-profit Israeli organizations Milbat and Access Israel, IKEA made 13 clever hacks to its existing products that make them more accessible to a broader range of users.

ThisAbles came as a result of a hackathon in an IKEA store, where teams of product designers and those with physical impairments got together to help determine product needs and how to work around them creatively. By the end of the development process, 13 products were developed — each with their unique purpose but collectively helped make life easier for those with special needs.

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Among other products that came out of the exercise include a glass bumper that can be attached to cabinets to prevent collisions with wheelchairs, mega switches for lamps to make turning them on and off more accessible, and a variety of large handles for various cabinets to name a few. The add-ons are designed explicitly to be slipped on specific IKEA products, making them easier to add or remove depending on the situation.

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So how do you get these disability-friendly slip-ons?

Instead of going to an IKEA store to buy them, the company has made all the designs available for free on the ThisAbles project webpage. As long as you have access to a 3D printer and the right printing materials, the detailed instructions will tell you which products you can make friendlier for somebody you know who may benefit from the design customization.

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The project isn’t stopping at 13 items though; more solutions are currently under development; and should you happen to have ideas of your own, IKEA is more than happy to take your suggestions and help turn them into reality.

Sans the do-it-yourself assembly, IKEA could soon be a leader at the forefront of accessibility design. Perhaps, even, their model is something that other companies could learn a thing or two from.


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.