Disabled people make up the largest minority group in the United States, at an estimated 27% of the US adult population. However, only about 3% of physicians practicing in the US self-identify as having a disability.
Many medical specialties are working to make the field more accessible for those with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides a set of building-design regulations to assist with an array of impairments, including mobility, motor control, vision, hearing, and much more. These recommendations are laid out in the Guide to the ADA Standards.
The following are key areas laboratories can focus on to make their facilities more accessible and inclusive to pathologists and laboratorians with disabilities.
The ADA’s Guide recommends aisles up to 60 inches wide to ensure those using wheelchairs can move about freely—including pulling out of their workstations, turning around, and going down the aisle—without bumping into nearby co-workers, who may be using various chemicals to perform tissue stains, etc. Additionally, assess the routes to bathrooms and exits, ensuring they are conveniently located and that there are no impediments to those with mobility issues.
Standard work surfaces are often set too high for people who use wheelchairs. The Guide advises that accessible surfaces be no more than 34 inches and no less than 28 inches above the floor, providing at least 27 inches of knee clearance. Labs can also invest in adjustable benches and work surfaces that can be raised and lowered to a comfortable height for all workers.
Eye washing stations must also be at a wheelchair-accessible height, and, ideally, chemical fume hoods should be adjustable for different statures.
Using large, high-contrast labels on materials and signage can help those with visual impairments. Labs can also invest in monitors to enlarge slides and aid in analysis. Pathologists are at an increased risk of eye strain due to their hours spent at the microscope, so these measures can help to both mitigate and prevent vision problems. Additionally, make sure alarms include flashing lights to alert the hearing impaired when there’s an emergency.
The above are just a few considerations for labs trying to meet the needs of staff members with disabilities; however, putting these measures into practice can benefit everyone. The CAP supports and encourages laboratories to not only meet minimum ADA regulations for accessibility, but to go above and beyond in making the laboratory a comfortable and inclusive space for all who work there.