How well are Europe’s Workplaces Adapted for the Disabled?

Many employers fail to truly accommodate the needs of their existing and future employers with with special disability requirements. As part of a Europe-wide project, Coventry University is investigating whether it is plausible for organisations to embed ergonomics into the design of jobs and facilities used everyday.

Researchers in the University’s School of Art and Design and the Centre for Transportation and Mobility have worked with partners in the UK, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Spain on the ERGO WORK initiative over the past year. A study carried out as part of the project by CU, found that just under 49% (520 employees total) believed that their workplace was well adapted to accommodate for disabled staff. More than half felt that they and/or other disabled employees were less included and were less happy to work than their able-bodied counterparts in the organisations studied. Furthermore, they admittedly lacked knowledge of what adaptations were actually possible and did not feel confident about their rights.

The ERGO WORK project looks to identify whether improved ergonomic features in the workplace could positively affect people with disabilities and improve equal employment opportunities. Pilot projects are currently underway at companies in Slovenia and Poland to evaluate and subsequently implement appropriate proposed changes in a variety of work environments such as production and assembly lines, office-based jobs and carpentry.

Dr. Louise Moody and Dr. Janet Saunders hope the project will inform EU-policy and will promote inclusion in the workplace.

“The initial study helped us get a snapshot of attitudes towards inclusion throughout the European countries involved in the project, and how adaptations are being made to workplaces and jobs to accommodate disabled people and their needs. There’s a lot of variation.

“Knowledge transfer and sharing is a big part of ERGO WORK. We’ve helped our partners develop a training module which will be incorporated into ergonomics courses at our partner universities.  In the pilot projects, this training is being used in practice to evaluate real jobs and workplaces, and propose and implement changes so they are better suited to disabled employees’ needs.

“Our next goal is to evaluate the pilot projects to assess the success of the training and the improvements made to the jobs and places of work. It’s critical that future generations of designers are appropriately equipped to consider the needs of people with disabilities when devising tools and technologies that are used in the workplace, and this is one of the ways in which the ERGO WORK project can have an impact.”

For more information, visit the ERGO WORK website.



Ryan Walker