Committed for Better Business

It is refreshing to see on television the recurring theme of able-bodied people appearing clumsy in comparison to an agile person in a wheelchair. Where once society wanted to avoid anyone in a wheelchair among its social circles, today’s climate is much more tolerant of wheelchairs. Thanks to disability laws and organizations, wheelchair ramps and other wheelchair access are commonplace in our workplaces, malls, schools, etc.

Have you ever had to use crutches for a while because of a sprained ankle or broken toe? It is difficult to move around your work area on crutches; Imagine what it would be like if you were in a wheelchair. Most work areas are now compliant with the latest regulations and have the necessary work stations to accommodate a worker in a wheelchair. All aspects of the office space must be considered, from desk height, door width, floor material, to hallway width and cubicle size.

Below are some specific conditions that enhance wheelchair access at work:

* Workstations should be near the main entrance and at the end of a row so that the navigator does not have to repeatedly go through crowded aisles.

* The height and width of a desk for wheelchair users must have a clearance of at least 32 inches. Motorized wheelchairs require more space.

* Leave space within a work station or cubicle for the wheelchair to back up, turn, and move from side to side. If someone must work behind the wheelchair, allow that worker to sit at least 60 inches behind.

*Doors must be at least 36 inches wide. The average wheelchair is about 30 inches wide, and the hands resting on the arms must also clear the door.

* Hallways, hallways, and other pathways must be no narrower than 48 inches to allow a person in motion and a wheelchair to pass without hitting each other.

* Think about the location and height of public telephones. Many public telephones are installed too high for a person in a wheelchair to reach them.

* Another detail that is often overlooked is the height of a drinking fountain. Many are too high.

* Restroom stalls must also comply with wheelchair accessibility laws.

Most guidelines for workplaces and buildings must comply with federal and state laws. The Federal Uniform Accessibility Standard and the Disability Access Regulations establish many rules in the workplace. The Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards provide exact dimensions and codes regarding various modifications and provisions that must be present at publicly accessible sites and in the workplace ( -html/ufas.htm). Various federal anti-discrimination laws are established to protect wheelchair users from discrimination or harassment.

In addition to physically arranging for wheelchair access in the workplace, employers and co-workers can remember the following tips:

* Suggest that coworkers sit face to face when meeting with a person in a wheelchair.

* Remember not to lean on or hold on to the wheelchair.

* Know that it’s okay to talk about active sports.

Federal regulations have made the workplace accessible to people in wheelchairs. Now everyone who requires access can achieve it.

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