In addition to the employer's general obligations under occupational health and safety law, companies have to meet special requirements if they employ people with disabilities. According to § 164 of the Social Security Code 9 (SGB IX) and § 3a of the Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV), companies are obliged to design workplaces in a way that is suitable for disabled persons, taking into account ergonomic, barrier-free and individual aspects (see Guidelines for designing for the disabled: DIN 32977 Part 1).
However, in contrast to accessibility, universal design is not legally anchored or standardized (see on accessibility: ArbStättV, DIN 18040).
In the long term, however, companies gain cost advantages from forward-looking and comprehensive planning based on the principle of universal design. Easy-to-use work equipment and a working environment in which employees can move around without barriers promotes the autonomy, health and productivity of the entire workforce.
In order to anchor the approach of universal design in work design, a multi-level strategy for categorising products is appropriate. This is especially true for small and medium-sized enterprises with scarce resources.
Guiding questions for the categorisation of products:
- Which products are easy to use and adapt for many employees (for example, adjustable work furniture, software)?
- Which products are customisable and enable the use of disability-friendly technologies (e.g. smartphone with integrated screen reader)?
- Which products are specially designed for a disability (e.g. power wheelchair)?