Getting 'closer' in achieving the universal design for offices

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As a result of medical advancements and current laws that protect those with disabilities, people who are disabled can contribute to the working population and the business community—with less risk of facing discrimination due to disability. We at Superdraft, believe that architects also contribute to the promotion of inclusion and respect for an individual. This industry strives for universal design, which will make all places accessible for the disabled. It was just an ambition back in the 1960s, but now, we're proudly seeing office spaces that don't intensify the difficulties of having a disability.

What the universal design looks like today

Today's designers think of innovative ways to leave no trace of special or separate treatment for the disabled. To ensure that a workplace is inclusive, you can ask yourself these seven questions:

1. Is the workplace for equitable use?

It must be fair to people with diverse needs, from the entrance up to the office tables.

2. Are the facilities flexible to use?

Everything in your office space can accommodate a wide range of preferences and abilities.

3. Is the design simple and intuitive?

The design must be easy-to-understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, or skills.

4. Does everyone perceive the message you want to convey?

Necessary information is communicated to the user, regardless of their sensory limitations.

5. Is it tolerant of error?

Any unintended action must not lead to hazardous accidents.

6. Do you exert low physical effort in using your facilities?

All can be used with minimal effort. In your office bathroom, for example, the faucets and the flush must be easy to use.

7. Do the size and space respect the diversity of employees?

A person in a wheelchair can pass through any hallway and a door in your building. The design must cater to everyone, regardless of their stature and mobility.

When the workplace of disabled person supports her physically, socially, and psychologically, they are more likely to continue becoming productive citizens. As Dr Rosemarie Rossetti, a world-renowned speaker and advocate for people with disabilities said, the universal design will help the disabled reclaim a positive outlook in life.

A universal design values the health of employees

To make the office safe for everyone, designers employ office ergonomics. It’s the science that deals with designing and arranging things so that people can use them easily and safely. Ergonomics is the key to a more comfortable working environment, that is equitable to people with or without a disability. It ensures us that the workplace fits the worker — not the other way around.

According to Safe Work Australia, an institution that protects the health of Australian workers, achieving a comfortable, productive and satisfying office environment will result in less musculoskeletal complaints. Designing an environment like this requires not only furniture and equipment but also the job designs, lighting, noise, air quality, office landscaping and personal space.

Professor Alan Hedge from Cornell University dedicated his career to inform people and institutions about proper office ergonomics. According to his books and research, these rules shouldn’t be broken in the office:

1. Find a good chair that is supportive, adjustable, and fits your desk. The back must have neck and lumbar support.

2. Avoid putting your computer at eye level. Instead, keep it two or three inches higher to avoid a hunched back.

3. Keep your feet flat on the floor so your body is stabilised at work. Use a footrest if you can't reach it.

4. Relax your arms and elbows and keep your wrists flat. Slope your keyboard downward to achieve a more natural position for the wrists.

5. Avoid repetitive motions by taking short breaks.

It is also recommended to install full-spectrum lighting in the office, apart from the task lighting each employee’s desks. Full-spectrum lights improve a person’s colour perception, visual clarity, mood, productivity, and mental awareness—similar to what sunlight does to humans, animals, and plants. To reduce distracting noise, we suggest installing surfaces and materials that absorb and block sounds, such as acoustic ceiling tiles, carpets, or panels. Controlling noise in the office helps your employees achieve greater concentration.

Designers play important roles here. We work together with business owners in achieving embracive, human-centred office spaces. This is only the beginning. The employer still has the greatest responsibility to keep their workforce healthy. As pioneers of your business, you are capable of establishing office ergonomic health and safety rules that your employees can participate in.


“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person—not just an employee—are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.' – Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox


Your employees are working alongside you to achieve your company’s ambitious goals. Providing a sense of belonging in the office to both your employees with and without disabilities creates an environment where everyone can continue expressing their talents to the fullest extent.

This article has been edited and condensed. Superdraft Pty. Ltd wrote this article exclusively for the LivePlan Blog. To read the original article, click here.

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