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Case Study Workplaces for wheelchair users

Group of persons:

Wheelchair users are dependent on the use of an assistive device for body locomotion or mobility due to a congenital or acquired physical disability as a result of an accident or illness.

Disability and impairment:

The disability results in an impairment of body locomotion due to damage to the support and movement system or other organic damage. The most common manifestations are based on damage:
- to the central nervous system (e.g., paraplegia, spina bifida or open back, cerebral movement disorders, and Parkinson's disease),
- to the skeletal system (e.g., back disease, joint deformities, and skeletal system malformations)
- due to amputations,
- due to muscle system diseases (e.g. E.g., muscular atrophy and muscular dystrophy), or
- due to inflammatory illnesses of the bones and joints (e.g., rheumatism).
The impairments may result in physical functional limitations or loss of function of the limbs, torso, large joints (hips and knees), spine, cardiovascular system, bladder, or bowel.
In general, wheelchair users have limited mobility, limited grasping space, limited exertion of strength, among other things, due to the sedentary posture, and are unable or no longer able to assume certain postures, such as primarily standing.


In order to achieve a high level of performance, the wheelchair must be selected in such a way that the individual abilities of the affected person can be optimally utilized and the work tasks can be performed as independently as possible. Body dimensions, body weight, strength capacity of the hand-arm-shoulder system, movement capacity of the hand-arm-shoulder system and other possible effects of the individual disability must be taken into account. Special effects of disabilities such as amputations, spinal curvatures, etc. must be taken into account by appropriate wheelchair accessories or even individual orthopedic adaptations. These tasks are taken care of by female doctors as well as male doctors, occupational therapists and orthopedic specialists. In the workplace itself, the work table and the work equipment needed by the person must be adapted to their changed abilities. This includes a work table that can be moved underneath and adapted to the individual seat height of the wheelchair user. Problems can always arise if the reaching and seeing space is restricted as a result of the only possible sitting position and the body forces are not satisfactory for carrying out the activity. The handling of folders stored in cabinets or shelves, which is often required in office workplaces, cannot be performed by wheelchair users without the use of assistive products or other people. Office paternoster shelves (carousels) or wheelchairs with an upright function (stand-up wheelchairs) enable such activities to be carried out independently, whereby stand-up wheelchairs in particular allow more flexible compensation for the limited gripping space at any points in the work area as well as environment. In addition, they enable communication at eye level and thus also play a role that should not be underestimated in terms of social-psychological aspects. At workplaces in production, the problem of limited gripping space can be compensated for by appropriate assistive products for material handling (e.g. by supply and removal devices). It should by no means be assumed that the workplace of wheelchair users should be exclusively static. On the contrary, especially for wheelchair users it is important that the cardiovascular system is activated by movement of the shoulder-hand-arm system.

Accessibility - Mobility:

It is crucial that barriers such as those caused by stairs, excessively steep/narrow paths and small movement areas, which prevent, for example, the performance of work, reaching/leaving the workplace, participating in meetings, using the canteen, social rooms and toilets, are identified and removed. This is achieved by:
- adapting door widths, paths and surfaces
- an automatic opening system for doors that are difficult to open
- using light switches, door / window handles, bells, intercoms that can be reached by wheelchair users
- non-slip floor coverings with the lowest possible rolling resistance
- ramps and lifts
Barriers can also be removed by relocating to another work area, e.g. to the first floor or to a more accessible room. Taking advantage of existing opportunities, especially for office work, to home-office in conjunction with increased digital work practices can also help reduce or eliminate time-consuming commutes or business trips, among other things. If public transport cannot be used for the commute, a passenger car can be adapted for suitable for disabled people - e.g., for complete use by hand (accelerator, brake, clutch/automatic transmission) in the event of loss of leg and foot function - thus ensuring the mobility required to cover the commute. If the commute to work is made by car, an appropriate parking space should be made available near the entrance to the company building and designated accordingly.
For reasons of occupational safety, it must be checked to what extent special measures are in place at the workplace for employees with disabilities to evacuate in hazardous situations (fire, etc.) and to report an emergency situation.) and for reporting an emergency situation when going to the toilet.

Assistive products used:

Work organization:

Measures, such as transferring parts of the work task to other people or moving the affected employees to a workplace with more suitable work content, can also successfully support inclusion and help make better use of potential. Individual adaptations to working hours (e.g., by switching to part-time work) may be necessary to ensure permanently tolerable workloads and satisfactory time for necessary rehabilitation measures, medical examinations or treatment. Care should also be taken to ensure that affected employees have the same opportunities for access and participation as other colleagues when it comes to training, instruction and information. This statement also applies to consideration for possible promotions. Examination or evaluation procedures must be designed in such a way that disadvantages are avoided.

Further Information

and participation:
Benefits for rehabilitation and participation are available to all people who are disabled or at risk of becoming disabled. Benefits for participation in working life include:
- assistance to maintain or obtain a workplace, including services for counseling and placement, training measures and mobility aids,
- benefits for employers or Employers (training grants for the company execution of educational services, integration grants, grants for work aids in the company, partial or full reimbursement of costs for temporary trial employment),
- services in vocational rehabilitation institutions,
- vocational preparation, vocational adaptations, training, further education including a school leaving certificate, which is necessary in order to participate in a vocational further training,
- achievements in the entrance procedure, vocational training as well as work area in workshops for handicapped humans (WfbM) and
- other assistance to promotion of the participation in working life, in order to make possible and receive humans with handicap an appropriate and suitable employment or an independent activity.
The rehabilitation providers of the services for participation can be
- the statutory health insurance funds,

ICF Items

Reference Number:


Last Update: 3 Aug 2023