3.1.2 Accessible buildings and workstations

In addition to providing the correct assistive technology, it is important that the design of the building does not present a barrier. To ensure that a school, training center or community center is accessible to persons with disabilities, builders should refer to appropriate building accessibility guidelines and national or regional building regulations. However, the following checklist provides some of the main areas to consider:

  • External environment – e.g. parking spaces, entrance doors
  • Horizontal circulation – e.g. internal door design and width, corridors, signage and way-finding
  • Vertical circulation – e.g. internal stairs, elevators and ramps
  • Facilities – e.g. accessible toilets
  • Emergency egress – e.g. auditory and visual alarm systems, evacuation policies, evacuation chairs
  • Accessible entrances – level entry or a mixture of steps and ramp70

The path to the computer workstation must be free from obstacles such as steps, bins or furniture that would obstruct the progress of users who are either walking or using a mobility aid such as a wheelchair. This includes the path into any room or area containing the computer workstation. The user should be able to operate the computer from a clear, flat area with at least a 1.5 meter radius directly in front of the computer workstation to enable a wheelchair to turn (Fig 3.5). Ensure that users of all heights can reach all operable parts. The comfortable range is between 1200 and 900mm. The maximum acceptable reach height for wheelchair users is 1400mm (See Figure.3.6). There should be adequate lighting.

The United Nations has a useful set of anthropometrical data covering ranges of height and reach when standing or sitting in a wheelchair, plus required path and turning space dimensions for wheelchairs.71

Figure 3.5 Wheelchair clearance and turning circle72

Figure 3.6 Common reach zones73

Physical access to the computer itself is also a key consideration. Physical access may be improved by simply repositioning the user or the computer system. This can be accomplished by using height-adjustable chairs, computer tables, keyboard trays, or monitor arms. Many of these solutions can be quite costly, but by adhering to the principles of ergonomic design for workstations, it should be possible in many situations to adjust an existing workstation to better suit the needs of an individual.74 Providing additional stabilizers or supports may improve control and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries.


70National Disability Authority, “Building for Everyone - Inclusion, Access and Use” http://www.nda.ie/cntmgmtnew.nsf/0/EBD4FB92816E8BB480256C830060F761?OpenDocument


72Irish National IT Accessibility Guidelines, Public Access Terminals. National Disability Authority. http://universaldesign.ie/useandapply/ict/itaccessibilityguidelines/publicaccessterminals/guidelines/priority-1/1-14

73Irish National IT Accessibility Guidelines, Public Access Terminals. National Disability Authority. http://universaldesign.ie/useandapply/ict/itaccessibilityguidelines/publicaccessterminals/guidelines/priority-1/1-1

7412 ergonomic guidelines adapted from Cornell University studies help improve your computer working environment and comfort.” http://www.ergoindemand.com/ergonomic-computer-workstation-guidelines.htm