Ergonomics is becoming an increasingly important element of office design, thus lending to a healthier, more comfortable and more productive working environment. However, considerations are seldom made for those with mobility impairments until such an employee is hired.
Those with mobility impairments’ ability to work at their fullest potential is negatively impacted until the necessary changes are made. This is why it is important to ensure that your office is wheelchair accessible as soon as possible. Here are a few tips to transform your office into a wheelchair accessible building.
Wheelchair users need more space to get around the office. They also need flat, non-slip surfaces. If your office is above ground level, a wheelchair accessible lift should be your first priority. Therefore, it’s important to find a reliable and affordable service to provide a lift that will allow wheelchair access in public buildings.
Any tight spaces, such as doorways or areas with furniture in the way, need to be wide enough for wheelchair users to easily manoeuvre through them. Carpeted surfaces should be thinner so that wheelchairs don’t get stuck, and plug points should be out of the way to prevent cables from being pulled.
Before any of this is done, you should ensure that the parking area features ample space for wheelchair users. Ideally, dedicated parking spaces should be as close to the entrance of your building as possible.
Fire doors can be difficult for even non-impaired employees to open. Consider installing automatic doors or ones with gas springs so that wheelchair users can easily exit the building in emergency situations. Granted, this can be expensive, so an alternative would be to properly educate other staff members on assisting wheelchair users in emergencies.
There are a variety of elements to consider when it comes to making a workspace accessible to wheelchair users. This includes having height-adjustable components, such as the desk and monitor. A slide-out shelf under the desk can also be used to make peripherals easier to reach.
If there are employees with physical impairments that make them unable to use standard peripherals, consider using speech-recognition software such as Dragon to eliminate the need for a keyboard and mouse. Other software, such as VivoMouse, uses head movements and voice activation to control a computer.
The bathroom is another space in the office building where doorways, floor surfaces and components such as the sink and toilets need to be easily accessible by wheelchair users. Consider having a separate, disabled bathroom for those who need one.
So, you’ve made the workspace, bathrooms, entrances and emergency exits accessible, but what about other tools in the office? This includes appliances in the cafeteria, copy machines, printers and meeting room tables. Think about the tools in your office that can’t be reached when sitting down. This should give you an idea of what to work on.
Making your office wheelchair accessible is an important step towards building a more diverse and accommodating workplace. Getting past any financial constraints or leaseholder limitations might not be easy, but a bit of strategic innovation will go a long way in making it happen.
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