Accommodating Microscope Users with Motor Impairment(s)
Individuals working at microscope workstations often report experiencing discomfort in their necks, shoulders, lower backs, and wrists. A logical result of this is that these individuals have difficulty maintaining their concentration and productivity levels suffer. JAN has received many requests for accommodating individuals who use microscopes at lab-type workstations and has come up with the following accommodation suggestions:
- First, determine whether the workstation is adjustable and fits the worker. Products used to make a workstation adjustable include tables, desks, and ergonomic and forward-leaning chairs. Adjustability is especially important for workstations that are multi-user stations. Corner cushions help eliminate punctures from sharp corners and forearm supports compensate for the lack of upper body support.
- Second, manufacturers produce microscopes that are adjustable to the user. These are called ergonomic microscopes. Static postures typically occur when the user leans over to observe specimens. Over a period of time, this leaning may lead to neck pain and lower back discomfort. Manufacturers also have addressed the fine motor movement and wrist posture necessary to adjust microscope knobs. Handle build-ups and microscope headrests on existing microscopes may be other effective alternatives.
- Third, many microscopes can be retrofitted with a personal computer (PC) and digital imaging. Products are also sold as integrated units called PC scopes. Controls for the microscope are handled through the PC. Alternative input devices may be used by the operator depending on the individual’s functional limitations. Links to these products can also be found below.
Questions to consider when evaluating a microscope workstation include:
- What types of applications are needed? Microscopes are specialized to the industry. Typical ones are medical research, manufacturing inspection, petrol-geology, and micro-surgeries.
- Is the workstation used by multiple users? If so, adjustable workstations should be considered. If not, adaptations may be made to fit a single user.
- What are the areas of discomfort reported by the workers? Training on proper postures along with the above mentioned products may be needed. Workers should also be encouraged to take appropriate work and stretch breaks to reduce fatigue.
Examples of JAN accommodation calls involving microscope users:
A clinical scientist with dexterity limitations due to a stroke had difficulty with fine motor movements. The individual's microscope was retrofitted with a personal computer (PC) and digital imaging. Alternative input devices were also used so that the operator could access the computer more easily.
An engineer with a back impairment who had to assemble small parts using a microscope had difficulty sitting for long periods of time. He was accommodated with an adjustable workstation and forward-leaning chair.
A medical assistant with use of one hand had problems using the keyboard to enter codes while analyzing materials through a microscope. The assistant was accommodated with a one-handed keyboard.
A technician with a burn injury was limited in her ability to hold her head in a single position for long periods of time. Her microscope observation tube was retrofitted with an adjustable inclined binocular tube that allowed a wide range of adjustments.