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Copy machine accessibility

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Copiers are a common piece of workplace equipment, however they can pose barriers to people with motor, sensory, or cognitive impairments. This article outlines some of the universal design features to look for in purchasing an accessible copier, as well as some of the assistive technology available to help make inaccessible products more usable.

Contents

Operations:

Here is a play-by-play of what is involved in the steps to use a copy machine:

  • Accessing the machine to turn it on
  • Feeding the paper to be copied
  • Paper Refilling
  • Ink/Toner Cartridge replacement
  • Copying the paper
    • Choosing paper size
    • Choosing print quality (color balance, brightness, contrast)
    • Choosing number of copies
    • Choosing copy scale/size
    • Choosing style of paper (2-sided)
    • Choosing style of printing (stapling, whole punch, order)
  • Organizing Multiple Print Jobs
  • Removing the paper copied
  • Removing the printed copies
  • Finishing to allow for other users


Upper Body Impairment

Individuals with fine motor issues may have difficulty reaching, and/or difficulty lifting. Problems / solutions with using a copier may include:

Feeding / removing the paper

Feeding / removing the paper to be copied depends on where the scanner on the machine is located. It can mean lifting a panel to lay what is to be copied on it or using dexterity to aim the sheet into the scanner. When finishing, more reaching, lifting, or grasping is often required.

Accessing to the scanner should be easy and at a universally usable position. An automatic-open-and-close panel will help, ideally with a motion sensor. This avoids all lifting, major reaching, and pressing any buttons. However, this design feature would be expensive.

Mechanism like this do exist
Mechanisms like this do exist.

Accessing parts of the machine

Accessing parts of the machine for refilling paper, ink, or doing any simple repairs (paper jams maybe) can mean trying to grasp handles to open panels or reaching inside the machine.

Machine areas need to be easy to access and be positioned conveniently. Having automatic-open-and-close trays, panels, drawers, or doors will help, ideally with a motion sensor. This makes tasks easier for those with fine motor-skill impairments. Placing the paper feeders and other parts in the front of the machine makes easy access to avoid major reaching.

Front motion sensor
Front Access | Added Motion Sensor

Using the machine interface

Copying requires interaction with an interface to tell the machine what to do for the job (as noted above). Fine motor skills may be needed to press buttons for requesting the job

The interface for completing copy jobs needs to be intuitive and also usable by persons with fine motor-skill impairments. A large interface with either large buttons or a touch screen or voice operation is important. It improves tolerance for error.

control panel Voice Recognition
Optional Touch Screen or Large Buttons with an Ability to Add A.T. of Voice Recogition

Removing and organizing copies

Removing finished jobs will require reaching, grasping, and lifting. In addition, organizing jobs can require reaching from different output trays.

Locating output trays near the scanner allows for less reaching. Designing for hands to grasp the finished jobs is important, such as cut-outs to allow for space for fingers to grab the paper(s) or a mechanism to release jobs into the user’s grasp or a basket of some sort if the user cannot lift them.

paper_release ergonomic trays
Paper Release Mechanisms | Paper Output Trays Angled and Shaped
The Imagistics ZD35 copy machine. The Pitney Bowes DL270 was similar in design.


Lower Extremity

Individuals with lower extremity impairments may have difficulty getting up to the copier and difficulty with reaching. Problems with using a copier may include:

Getting up to the machine

Accessing the machine may depend on where it is in a room, allowing for enough space for a person with a walker or wheelchair to be able to move to and around it. It also deals with the height of the machine itself in relation to the user.

Placing the copy machine in an accessible spot is key. Copy Machines vary in height; however, it is not always feasible to obtain multiple machines for one room. Controlling the height can allow for users of many varying heights to adjust the machine to them by using a scissor lift either attached or purchased separately. (A.T.)

machine lifts
A mechanism to adjust for vary heights

Feeding / removing paper

Feeding/ Removing the paper to be copied depends on where the scanner on the machine is located. It can mean lifting a heavy panel to lie materials that are to be copied, which is often strenuous on back muscles. When finishing, more lifting may be required. It can make users use both hands to lift without a free hand to balance themselves if necessary.

Accessing the scanner to make copies should be easy and at a universally usable position. An automatic-open-and-close panel will help, ideally with a motion sensor. This avoids all lifting. In addition, a grab bar can be designed to stabilize a user when laying materials onto the scanner.

grab bar on the copier
Attaching or building in a grab bar to the machine.

Accessing parts of the machine

Accessing parts to the machine for refilling paper, ink, or doing any simple repairs (paper jams maybe) can mean bending down to reach for opening panels. For lower body impairments, this can be nearly impossible.

Accessing parts to the machine also needs to be easy and positioned conveniently. Having automatic-open-and-close trays, panels, drawers, or doors will help, ideally with a motion sensor. Placing the paper feeders and other parts in the front of the machine makes easy access to avoid major bending. Making sure those panels are access at a comfortable height may mean an ability to lift the machine, which may be easier with a desktop copier. In addition, the parts to a desktop machine are located closer to each other because it is smaller.

desktop 0
Access to parts may be less strenuous with a smaller, desktop copier

Removing / organizing jobs

Removing finished jobs and organizing them can require bending to reach from different output trays and heavy lifting depending on the size of the job. Even so, there is not enough workspace to put projects together without using two hands and possibly losing balance.

Locating output trays near the scanner allows for less bending over. Designing an attached workspace will add a convenience to organizing printing jobs.

workspace
Can we say ‘size and space for approach and use?’


Low Vision or Cognitive Impairment Design Features

Feeder Location and Size

An automatic document feeder (ADF) allows you to copy multi-page documents without having to lift and lower the cover for every sheet you copy. An recalculating automatic document feeder (RADF) will flip pages inside the machine for simplified double-sided copying.

Paper Supply

When buying a copier, make sure you know how much paper the copier can load and how to paper is loaded. Personal front-loading paper is the best for people with visual or cognitive impairments because it will be easier for them to locate and reach the tray. Since most front load copiers can hold an maximum of 50 pages, it will be easier to determine when they are going to have to reload. The advantage with having a large capacity copier is that they have a number of different paper sources allowing for you so store different paper sizes such as letterhead, legal size stock, or transparencies, without reloading the machine, and typically can hold up to 3,000 sheets

Sorting and Finishing

This feature enables a user to feel the separation between the different print jobs. Digital copiers can sort copied sets electronically without the use of sorter bins. Bin-free sorting allows you to make unlimited sets at one time, rather than only as many sets as you have sorter bins. Copies are placed in a single tray at a right angle or offset from each other, allowing you to easily identify where one set ends and another begins.

Menu Interface

Persons with visual or cognitive impairments should play close attention to the menu interface that goes along with the copier when making a selection. Analog printers may be easier to use because they are limited in their functions. However, digital copiers are currently more common in the workplace. Some copiers will also have the option of a loud beeping sound when jobs are complete


Existing Options:

AFB Technology studied the accessibility needed by copy machines. Although the research was directed towards users with vision impairments, this information can also be important for other types of functional limiations.

Voice Operation

AFB Tech rated Canon’s ImageRUNNER copy machine with voice operation as the best choice on the market, which includes:
  • large operation buttons
  • a wide control panel with a touch screen
  • or use voice to work the machines (A.T.)
  • The paper source is reachable
  • All refilling and troubleshoot access is on the front face of the machine
  • Copies are printed and sent to a slanted tray for easy pick-up
A recent study showed, ”the most significant finding was that the voice-guidance interface is indeed accessible and usable, providing a practical solution for access to copy machine… The performance of all the participants improved from one task to the next, and all the participants agreed that it would be a simple system to learn and use on the job.[4]”


The Canon imageRUNNER copier with Voice Operation Kit.
The Canon imageRUNNER copier with Voice Operation Kit.


The imageRUNNER control panel and the Voice Operation speaker.
The imageRUNNER control panel and the Voice Operation speaker.


Desktop Copy Machines

Desktop Copy Machines have several advantages over conventional standing machines:

  • They are less expensive
  • They are lighter in weight to move to different table tops (enabling the user to vary the height of the device)
  • The cover for the scanning area is lighter in weight
  • The smaller size means parts for accessing, fixing, and scanning are closer together, thus reachable

Users with Lower Body Impairments often prefer using this desktop copiers. The desktop units that AFB Technology evaluated had important features to note: “are all roughly cube-shaped boxes, and each has a large document feeder tray on the top of the unit that is hinged in the back and lifts up to reveal the glass panel where the document's image is captured. Each unit has an output tray on the front or side of the unit and a front panel with doors for accessing and filling the paper trays and ink cartridges. Each unit also has a control panel for accessing the various menus and functions that is located at the top front of the unit just below the document feeder tray. The control panel consists of a small rectangular monochrome display and a series of raised buttons for input purposes. The buttons are grouped by function, and each unit has a group of buttons for speed-dialing fax numbers, a standard 12-digit telephone-style number pad for entering fax numbers, and other groups of buttons for navigating the menu system and for using the print, scan, and fax functions. [2]"

desktop 1. desktop 2. desktop 3
The Brother MFC-8840D, the Canon Imageclass MF-5750, and the Samsung SCX-4720F multifunctional desktop copiers.


References

AFB AccessWorld. Darren Burton and Lee Huffman. “Product Evaluation: Copy Machines.” (4 Articles).
March 2006-January 2007.
[1] [2] [3] [4]


Authors: Lealan LaRoche, UD @ Georgia Tech (motor sections) &

D.Wright, UD @ Georgia Tech (vision and cognitive sections)