As our views of disability change, we are gradually becoming a society that more thoroughly merges our facilities with disabled individuals in all aspects of life. The old perception that disabled people cannot work or lead a normal life is slowly going away. More and more organizations and firms are adapting to this new norm and seek out workers with a variety of disabilities while adapting to having wheelchairs in the workspace.
Some of the usual issues that wheelchair users have come across include small and cramped corridors in buildings, parking lots that are tough to get around, or even just shopping or going to visit friends and family. Uneven surfaces or steep slopes that are impossible to self-propel a manual wheelchair and need an electric wheelchair are also factors that cause problems.
Employees that use wheelchairs should be able to move around easily through the office without having to panic about obstacles such as narrow doorways, stairs, and inadequate restroom facilities getting in their way. Making modifications in workplaces to allow easy access can make a large difference in how the disabled employee performs and feels at work.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was brought upon in 1990. It protects the civil rights of individuals with disabilities and their access to everyday facilities. The law requires all office buildings and commercial sites to make their facilities easily accessible to individuals with disabilities. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also mandates a safe work environment for all employees. Also, it sets standards for wheelchair accessibility in the workplace.
Here is a small list of aspects we should try to change to accommodate wheelchairs in the workspace.
Provide parking close to the entrances for people in wheelchairs and other disabled employees. This includes transportation vans if the employees need assistance in getting to the building. Designate at least one of such spaces next to each entrance of the building. Place the universal disabled person's sign and use paint of a different color to outline each space. The number of parking spaces given to disabled employees depends on the number of spaces in the lot. An appropriate ratio approved by many organizations is two designated spaces for disabled employees for every 50 spaces.
Ramps For Wheelchairs Entering the Workspace Building
Provide access ramps at entrances so wheelchairs can easily access and leave the building. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act Buildings and Facilities Guidelines, the ramp incline must have a slope of 1:16 to 1:20. Handrails should be present at steeper ramps to enable those in wheelchairs to pull themselves up. The installation of motorized lifts gives an alternative to ramps.
Ensure Entrance Ways Are Wide Enough
Make sure to measure existing entranceways and doorways. This will determine if these meet the desired 36-inch width suggested in the ADA buildings guidelines. Install specialized door hinges to provide more space between the door and the doorway. Or, you can hire a contractor to widen the doorways. Doorways throughout the building should follow certain guidelines. This includes office doors, storage doors, meeting room doors, and bathroom entrances. Doors should also swing inwards and not outwards to allow those in wheelchairs to open doors easily.
OSHA requires a minimum width of any access not to be less than 28 inches wide. Stairways should have a minimum width of 22 inches. The ADA has often overruled this stipulation. They have mandated that hallways be at least 44 inches wide to allow wheelchair access.
Bathroom Stalls For Wheelchairs in the Workspace
For wheelchairs in the workspace, establish at least one disabled bathroom stall in each bathroom in the building. Bring a contractor to create additional stalls or join two stalls to make this necessary stall.
Additional Room for Wheelchairs in the Workspace
Provide more room to store a manual or electric wheelchair if a disabled employee prefers to sit in an office chair while working. Make a larger cubicle space or office space large enough for the employee to transfer from wheelchair to office chair. Space should be big enough to accommodate a wheelchair, desk, office chair, and other office items.
Evacuation Routes designed for Wheelchairs
Occupational safety and health standards in working places require that well highlighted and adequately maintained exit routes be made so that all employees, including those who use wheelchairs, can leave the premises at minimal danger as quickly and efficiently as possible. A ramp must be made where the exit route is too steep or pitched l for the wheelchair user. Stipulations also require that each exit route door remain void of decorations or signs that hide the exit route door’s visibility.
Some of the most talented workers may have any number of disabilities. While only special computer equipment is needed for visually impaired individuals, the needs for wheelchairs or even electric wheelchair friendly workplace are much more varied.
The strides we need to make to make sure that the workplace is more accessible for wheelchair users is very important. Non-disabled people rarely realize how easy it is to take things for granted in an office space.
There should be a sense of equality and justice in the workplace. All the actions for accessibility in the world do not mean anything if you or your employees fail to see beyond the disability of the person and are not open to adapting to the new environment.
- How to Adapt Your Workplace for Employees Who Use Wheelchairs
- Handicapped Showers Specifications
- Wheelchair Resources - Disability and Discrimination
- Office Ideas for Wheelchair Users
- Preparing to Go Home in Your New Wheelchair