Project explores how well Europe's workplaces are adapted for disabled

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Thursday 09 July 2015

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Coventry University is investigating the challenges disabled employees face in the workplace as part of a Europe-wide project exploring how organisations can embed ergonomics into the design of jobs and facilities.

The ERGO WORK initiative has already seen the University's School of Art and Design work with partners in five EU countries for over a year to explore how improved ergonomic features in a place of work could positively affect people with disabilities and improve equal employment opportunities.

A study carried out by Coventry University as part of the project found that out of 520 employees surveyed across companies in Belgium, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and the UK, less than half (49%) believed that their workplace was well adapted to accommodate disabled staff.

Disabled respondents reported that they felt less included and were less happy at work than able-bodied participants, and that they did not feel confident about knowing their rights or what kind of adaptations to their workplace were possible.

Pilot projects are underway at companies in Slovenia and Poland to evaluate and implement proposed changes in varied work environments, where disabled employees are working on activities such as carpentry, production and assembly lines, and call centre and office-based jobs.

Researchers Dr Louise Moody and Dr Janet Saunders at Coventry University hope the project will help inform EU policy and directives designed to promote inclusion in the workplace.

Dr Saunders, senior research assistant in the Department of Industrial Design at Coventry University, said:

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.

More information about the ERGO WORK initiative is available at the project website: