Posted on: 22 August 2016
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to help protect Americans with disabilities from discrimination when in public, at work, or using a communications service. Parts of the ADA do apply to otherwise private areas like offices, but many business owners are completely unaware of the requirements that apply to them. Learn the critical facts about how the ADA affects office furniture purchases before ordering products based on assumptions or advertising claims.
No Official Approval
Despite what many companies claim in their marketing materials, there are no furniture designs or brands that bear an official stamp of approval from the organizations that enforce the ADA. Any furniture labeled "ADA compliant" may or may not actually meet those requirements, since there's no governing body to inspect furniture and approve it. It's certainly likely that furniture marketed this way meets the requirements, but it's no guarantee. You can invest in a whole matching suite of furniture labeled as ADA approved and still end up responsible for finding new furnishings after a complaint from an employee. It's far better to learn the requirements yourself and shop for matching items than to try to rely on unregulated marketing claims.
When using built-in seating in your office for a conference room or break area, you'll need to make at least 1% and no less than 1 of the seats accessible to wheelchair users. This generally means installing armless chairs or chairs with removable arms. This rule doesn't apply to non-fixed seating, so most offices will likely only have one or two areas with fixed seating to make compliant. Choosing armless or folding arm chairs for all of the fixed seating used in the office makes it easier to remember to comply with this rule.
Setting up workstations for people with mobility issues mainly only requires attention to the height of the table and the depth of the space underneath it. Aim to provide at least 27 inches of height under the table to accommodate a wheelchair user, and 19 inches of depth. Adjustable workstations and tables make it much easier to accommodate people with disabilities, so consider choosing only adjustable products even if you don't have any disabled employees at the present time. If you're sticking with fixed surfaces rather than adjustable ones, you'll need to make sure at least 5% and no less than 1 of the workstations comply with these table rules.
Not only can furniture fail to accommodate disabled employees, it can also pose a hazard to people with impaired eye sight. The ADA requires that any obstacle protruding at least four inches into a passageway must protrude at a point lower than 27 inches above the floor. This allows a person relying on a sight cane to notice there's a chair leg, shelf, or other piece of furniture partially blocking their path. Choose furniture with legs that run to the ground directly below the farthest edge of a tabletop or shelf surface to make sure every piece of furnishing meets the 27 inch requirement.
Finally, don't forget about storage area accessibility too. The ADA sets requirements for shelves, cabinets, and similar storage units so that wheelchair users can approach them, reach the surfaces or open the drawers, and maneuver away without getting stuck. This means you'll need storage units that offer the right depth and height combinations, which vary depending on what's being stored and where. Even the types of latches on the drawers and cabinets must be either U-shaped or a spring-loaded type that opens the door with a single push on the latch. Choosing the wrong type of cabinet unit could leave you having to make accessibility changes later.
For information on available styles of office furniture, contact a company like D & R Office Works Inc.Share