Photo of six art tools (2 paintbrushes, a dry erase marker, a sharpie, a pen, and a pencil) all with prototype handles attached to the ends of them

CATHY: Designing Adaptive Handles for Creative Art for Adult Artists with Disabilities

University of Pittsburgh

Shih-Dun (Stanley) Liu, Stephanie Vasquez-Gabela, Alexis Daulton, and Junghan Sim

The scarcity of commercially available adult-sized art handles presents a problem for
adult artists with disabilities at Community Living And Support Services (CLASS), a
facility in Pittsburgh that provides creative art sessions. Commercially available
products are often designed for pediatrics, and adult artists with disabilities who cannot
use their hands fully are currently using homemade adaptive handles. These handles
are not easily customized, limit their art tool options, are not easily cleaned and are not
durable, resulting in inadequate temporary solutions.
We asked two questions inspired by user research: a) How does a handle improve
adult artists with disabilities’ art experience? b) What are adults with disabilities
preferred features for an adapted handle for art tools?
We designed three solutions that help users expand their ability to change tools,
change paint colors, and have a wider range of tools to use in their artwork. Based on
user preference for grips, the solutions were 1) T-Bar handle 2) Ball handle 3) Long
Pole handle. Design criteria included simplicity, cleanability, and durability.
Our designs satisfy three types of grip preference, and reduce the artists’ and
teachers’ time spent on setting up tools, allowing more time spent on creating art. Our
handles work with a greater range of brushes and markers than the previous handle
allowed, granting adult artists with disabilities the freedom to create the art that they

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