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Computer workstations

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Design of computer workstations is slowly becoming more innovative, like the technology that sits on top of it. In the process of making workstations 'ergonomically correct,' more consideration has been given to the variety of potential users. This has worked to the advantage of people with disabilities since many workstations are now more 'adjustable.' Still, many of the workstations available may not address the placement, ease and accessibility of office equipment for the disabled user. In such cases, workstations specifically designed for people with disabilities may be the best option. The products described in this article may accommodate users with or without disabilities and it is suggested that the reader call the individual companies to further investigate the equipment of interest.



What are adjustable workstations?

Any single level or multilevel computer station that offers a height adjustment feature fits in this category. Most often this adjustment is accomplished via a manual crank or switch that operates a motor. These workstations may accommodate a wide range of users, including a person of short stature who may need to work at a lower level or a large person in a power wheelchair that may require higher leg clearance. Another option to consider is the more permanent, modular/panel type workstations which are height adjustable during initial set up and best of all, often provide a lot of leg clearance under the desk.

Will the monitor and keyboard surface be adjustable too?

If the workstation has a single flat surface and the monitor sitting on it is too low, a monitor platform or monitor arm may need to be added to achieve the proper height. Similarly, a keyboard platform or arm can be attached to most work surfaces to achieve the desired keyboard/mouse position. Unlike a single level surface workstation, most bi-level workstations will allow the user to fix and adjust the monitor shelf and keyboard shelf independently to obtain the desired position.

Are height adjustable workstations more expensive than nonadjustable ones?

Not necessarily. Prices vary greatly in office furniture, as they would in other types of furniture. The most significant cost differences is between a manually adjusted workstation, starting at about $250 and power driven adjustable workstations that begin close to $1000. Although motorized workstations are not as expensive as they were years ago, it still may not be worth the additional cost if the surface is to remain fixed after the initial adjustment.

Can my old desk be adapted to accommodate my wheelchair?

There are some low tech, inexpensive ways to adjust the height of a desk or work surface that has fixed legs. Besides using wood blocks, leg extenders, designed specifically for this purpose, can boost the height 3 to 5 inches.

What are recessed workstations?

Some workstations are designed with recessed compartments that house the monitor and sit 'down in the desk.' Often there is some flexibility in the angling of the monitor and for some individuals this positioning may reduce neck, eye and/or back strain. Another appealing feature of utilizing this type of workstation is the resulting unobstructed view. For this reason, recessed workstations may be desirable for training or educational settings.

What are the advantages of mobile workstations?

The obvious perk is the ability to move these castor-based units to other areas of the office, but there may be other advantages as well. A tight office budget may necessitate the sharing of technology between different users. Also, since many of the mobile units on the market are compact in size, they may be desirable in smaller or tight workspaces. Most of these units also have adjustable height surfaces and can accommodate a wheelchair user.

What are sit/stand workstations?

These workstations are usually fairly compact and convert from a sitting to a standing height and anywhere in between. A majority of the sit/stand stations are adjusted at the touch of a button, but a few are manual. They are usually narrow, and would need to be at least 30 inches wide to accommodate a wheelchair, although this width may not leave a lot of room for maneuverability. An alternative is to purchase a monitor riser and keyboard riser that turns a standard workstation into one that can be used from a standing position.

What is a wall or ceiling mounted workstation?

These units may be found in industrial, manufacturing or health care settings and are ideally designed for brief or intermittent data entry. There is no desktop, but rather an arm that attaches to a wall and supports the monitor and keyboard, without any additional work surface. Ceiling mounted units function the same way, except they are even more mobile via a tracking system. All these units are adjustable in all directions for the optimum ergonomic positioning of the user, standing or sitting. In addition, they are very space efficient and can easily be moved out of the way. Some units, with flat screen monitors, can even be folded up flat against the wall. Given the clear floor space and adjustability features of these workstations, they may be desirable to wheelchair or scooter users in the appropriate setting.

What workstations have features that specifically address the needs of some wheelchair users?

  • A bi-level, adjustable height workstation with a lower (keyboard) shelf that has a maximum tilt of 85 degrees. This accommodates a mouthstick typist, placing the keyboard in a near vertical position once secured in place. (Daedalus Technologies, Inc.)
  • A height adjustable completely wall-mounted desk, completely free of any obstructions beneath the "desk," offering easy wheelchair access in and out. (AD-AS)
  • A workstation with a wheelchair track on the floor that allows the user to easily slide side to side along the track while working in a horizontal workstation (Wheelchair Workstations)
  • A desk with one or two turntable surfaces for someone with limited or no reaching ability. Rotating surfaces make desktop components/equipment more accessible. (Extensions for Independence)

What type of workstation can accommodate a user who cannot sit upright?

  • A self-contained workstation and chair with headrest, attached as one unit that moves simultaneously to a semi reclining position of 20 degrees or forward tilt of 10 degrees. (Aptus)
  • A mobile, tilting, computer support frame that straddles the users own bed or recliner. (ErgoPod)
  • A portable work surface that resembles a tilted TV tray that is designed to hold a book or laptop computer while the user is reclining on a couch or bed. (Laptop Laid- Back, KayJae)
  • A hospital over-the-bed table with a tilting feature to allow a lap top computer user to work from a somewhat reclined position. Some models may not have a "lip" along the edge to hold the laptop in place while tilted, so try securing the bottom with Velcro. (BackSaver, Sammons)
  • A steel frame, which supports an adjustable CRT, arm and attached pull-out keyboard tray, that is positioned over the users recliner or easy chair. (EasyChair Workstation)