In addition to the employer's general obligations under occupational health and safety law, companies must meet special requirements if they employ people with disabilities. According to § 164 of the Social Code 9 (SGB IX) and § 3a of the Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV), companies are obliged to design workplaces suitable for disabled people, taking into account ergonomic, barrier-free and individual aspects (see Guiding Principles for Disability-Friendly Design: DIN 32977 Part 1).
However, in contrast to accessibility, universal design is not legally anchored or standardised (see on accessibility: ArbStättV, DIN 18040).
In the long term, however, companies can benefit from forward-looking and comprehensive planning based on the principle of universal design. Work equipment that is easy to use and a working environment in which employees can move without barriers promote the autonomy, health and productivity of the entire workforce.
To embed the Universal Design approach in work design, a multi-level strategy for categorizing products is a good idea. This is especially true for small and medium-sized companies with scarcer resources.
Guiding questions for categorizing products:
- Which products are easily usable and adaptable by many employees (for example, adjustable work furniture, software)?
- Which products are individually adaptable and enable the use of technologies suitable for disabled people (for example, smartphone with integrated screen reader)?
- Which products are specifically designed for a disability (for example, power wheelchair)?