Universal Design as a Workplace Accommodation Strategy

Fig. 24.1
Sloping walkways that are integrated into landscape and have well-defined edges (e.g., low walls and planters). These enable all users to get to the entrance in the same manner. These features exemplify principles: P1. Equitable use, P2. Flexibility in use, P4. Perceptible information; P6. Low physical effort, P7. Size and space for approach and use, P8. Social integration and P9. Contextual integration


Fig. 24.2
For buildings that do not require controlled access (i.e., are not locked), motion sensor entrance doors enable hands-free access/egress to/from a workplace. This feature enables: P1. Equitable use, P3. Simple and intuitive use, P5. Tolerance for error, P6. Low physical effort, P7. Size and space for approach and use, P8. Social integration, and P9. Contextual integration


Fig. 24.3
For buildings that have controlled access, keycards with embedded RFID tags permit hands-free access if the reader is located in the path of travel and at a height that will enable a keycard located on a wheelchair or in an employee’s purse/pocket to be read. The RFID reader demonstrates principles: P1. Equitable use, P2. Flexibility in use, P3. Simple and intuitive use, P5. Tolerance for error, P6. Low physical effort, P7. Size and space for approach and use, P8. Social integration, and P9. Contextual integration

Moving Around the Worksite

Inside the worksite, layout of the spaces and circulation is consistent with employees’ expectations. Circulation, both horizontal (i.e., hallways) and vertical (i.e., ramps, elevators, and lifts), is clearly visible from the entrance, uncluttered with furniture and free of level changes in the direct path of travel. When level changes occur in a corridor, tactile and visual warnings are provided at the top, and when possible, ramps, rather than using stairs, are used so that traffic can continue to flow in the direction of travel. Corridors are wide enough to accommodate two people side by side, whether they are walking or using mobility devices.

Corridors and paths of travel across open spaces are differentiated by changes in flooring materials, textures, and color. Continuous handrails along corridors assist individuals with balance and gait limitations and tactile information on the handrails identify specific rooms along the corridor for employees who have difficulty seeing or are just not paying attention to where they are going. The multisensory signage system includes high-contrast multimodality signs that use tactile, visual, and auditory information as well as landmarks, such as statues or columns that are strategically located to identify destinations or decision points (Fig. 24.4).


Fig. 24.4
Redundant and multisensory way-finding systems, including color changes in signs and floor colorings as well as tactile information on wall and handrail signs exemplify principles: P1. Equitable use, P2. Flexibility in use, P3. Simple and intuitive use, P4. Perceptible information; P5. Tolerance for error, P8. Social integration, and P9. Contextual integration

Lighting is even with gradual transitions between spaces. Changes in flooring materials between spaces should be smooth, yet contrast in color and texture. Walls made of different material and with different color and texture than flooring will reflect sound differently and provide way-finding information. In multilevel buildings, the slope of stairs between levels is as gradual as possible with handrails at multiple levels on both sides. Stairs as well as an elevator or vertical lift are located in convenient places to minimize the distance that any employee has to travel.

Using the Workstation

Rather than large open areas, where job tasks permit, individual workspaces have high sound-resistant walls to minimize ambient noise levels and enable each worker to control the noise levels in his/her own workspace. Workstations are arranged and oriented to enable employees to have visual access to coworkers in order to communicate effectively (Fig. 24.5 ).


Fig. 24.5
Universal design features that provide flexibility, such as large workspaces that locate all objects within reach, enable easy access to all parts of a workstation and facilitate work tasks for individual workers and teams. These features illustrate principles: P1. Equitable use, P2. Flexibility in use, P3. Simple and intuitive use, P4. Perceptible information, P5. Tolerance for error, P6. Low physical effort, P7. Size and space for approach and use, P8. Social integration, and P9. Contextual integration

Using the Work Surface

Every workstation provides sufficient knee space and toe clearance below the work surface to enable employees of any stature and chairs with a range of seat heights (including wheelchairs) to be as close to the workstation as possible. Work surfaces provide sufficient space and locations for work items, controls, keyboards, and other work objects within easy reach, thus enabling their use by the maximum number of workers . Those items that are used most frequently are located in the closest positions possible. In most cases, employees can reach and use controls and work items with the least change in body position; however, the chair that slides along the entire length of the work surface enables workers to also adjust their position for all work items, equipment, and controls to be within reach.

Computing and Using ICTs

Most computer equipment is plug and play to accommodate a variety of alternative input devices (e.g., mouse, keyboards, voice input). Input devices are wireless to provide flexibility and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and configurations to increase comfort and reduce fatigue. All workstations are equipped with a high-contrast, large screen monitor on a tilt-adjustable stand that raise, lower, and tilt to reduce eye, neck, and back strain. In addition, all computer systems are capable of having dual monitors and a second monitor is available for those who desire one. To complement the large monitors, employees are encouraged to use screen enlargement and contrast enhancement options that are built into the computer’s operating system. Finally, the workspace is configured to enable employees to access computer drives and other peripherals (e.g., printers and scanners) with either hand.

Interpersonal Communication

To enable face-to-face communication, all communal spaces and individual workspaces are usable by any employee, regardless of ability. Meeting spaces are located near workstations and have a direct path of travel to make spaces easy to find and to minimize travel time. Routes throughout the worksite are continuous without obstacles or level changes; use contrasting colors and floor materials; and provide high-contrast, large-text, iconographic, and tactile information to identify spaces and aid way finding.

Informal meeting spaces (e.g., copier, coffee pot, or water cooler) are intentionally and strategically located with extra space and casual seating provided where employees have the opportunity for serendipitous encounters. Meeting spaces have sufficient space and are equipped with chairs and tables to facilitate social interaction between all employees and groups of employees regardless of the ability or use of assistive devices . Tables have movable chairs and can be arranged in different configurations to enable use by differing size groups and employees with and without mobility aids. There are no obstructions to enable clear lines of sight so that communication partners can clearly see each other and any visual information in the work environment. There is a good acoustical environment to ensure that important information is intelligible and reverberation time and characteristics are optimized by minimizing hard reflective surfaces and using sound absorbing materials on walls, floors, and ceilings or covering windows with shades/curtains. Background noise is minimized to ensure that unwanted noise is not distracting and does not mask speech and other important information. Formal meeting spaces are equipped with assistive listening systems that amplify sound for employees with hearing limitations.

Evidence-Based Practice in Workplace Accommodations

While logic suggests that UD is an effective workplace accommodation strategy for all employees across their work life as well as the life of the job, there is little empirical evidence about the costs, benefits, and effectiveness of UD accommodations with which to inform the practice. Limited research suggests that UD is more usable not only for people with disabilities but also for everyone (Danford 2003; Saito 2006). A few studies of workplace accommodations have demonstrated that UD has the potential to reduce costs, decrease absenteeism, and sick leave , improve the organizational bottom line by preventing workplace injury and illness, and improve employee retention in organizations (Hendrick 1996; O’Neill 1998; Oxenburgh et al. 2004).

Unfortunately, a variety of factors including the lack of measurable criteria for defining UD (i.e., objective measures of UD as opposed to descriptive principles) and a historical lack of interest in evidence-based practice have limited research. Whereas the first barrier requires a technical solution, the latter is an artifact of the profession. Historically, the aggregate knowledge base of workplace accommodations has been dominated by anecdotal case studies (Butterfield and Ramseur 2004). Whereas case study evidence is useful for setting precedents, and, ultimately, if enough case studies are reported, for suggesting trends, the practice of workplace accommodation is better described as driven by practice-based evidence rather than evidence-based practice (Sanford and Milchus 2006).

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May 21, 2017 | Posted by in GENERAL | Comments Off on Universal Design as a Workplace Accommodation Strategy
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