As we focus on the health risks for able-bodied persons who are committed to sedentary jobs, it raises the question, ‘What about wheelchair users?’ The current advice to sit less and stand more cannot apply. What then can be done to help?
Persons who depend on wheelchairs face the same dangers as those who sit for prolonged periods. Muscular atrophy, leading to back, neck and shoulder strain, increased risk of diabetes and weight gain, poor circulation and heart-related complications. And although wheelchair users are advised to exercise and eat healthily to minimise the negative impact of sitting for long periods.
So too, wheelchair users need to consider their work space. The same rule applies to all employees as companies are obligated to provide a healthy and safe work environment – from sit-stand desks and ergonomic chairs to the right temperature control setting and sufficiently wide passage ways and doorways.
Creating the right conditions for a wheelchair user depends on that individual’s specific needs and the job they are required to perform. Wheelchairs lack that similarity to an office chair in that the user cannot adjust the height to comfortably match to the desk height. And often times, standard desks do not accommodate for the design and attachments of a wheelchair – there is a lot of ‘making-do’ with the existing furniture.
However, the right kind of desk can make all the difference. Ergonomically designed desks are height adjustable, some have a tilting surface or attentive design to accommodate any features of a wheelchair that might cause an obstruction when trying to fit with a traditional desk.
Here are some guidelines in choosing the best desk designed for disabled individuals.
Height adjustable desks that allow the individual to independently adjust their desktop position while working in a wheelchair. Tilting desktops allow for this freedom.
Desks that can be easily raised or lowered electronically or by crank are probably easiest for a wheelchair user, as some manually adjustable desks require the individual to be standing and/or some exertion to alter the height. Unless a colleague can make the adjustments, then manually adjusted desks are not viable.
The design of the wheelchair and whether it has fixed obstructions will determine the design of the desk. In such a case, a split-level top might be preferred.
A purpose-designed desk is an asset to anyone bound to a desk job, and a well-chosen one will have many benefits for an individual’s health and well-being.