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April 22, 2004

University's new ergopods improve access for students with disabilities

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan is deploying 15 new workstations called ergopods in its campus computing sites this year to improve access for students with disabilities.

An ergopod is a sit-stand-recline workstation, giving unimpeded access to computers and peripheral equipment. Each ergopod—which is 62 inches wide, 35 inches deep and 67 inches high—is equipped with a height adjustable work surface, a Macintosh computer, a personal computer, keyboard, closed circuit television and scanner.

"We have attempted to take everything we have learned over the years and build it into a single workstation," said Jim Knox, who oversees U-M's Adaptive Technology Computing Site (ATCS) and first conceptualized the ergopods. "Disability has come to encompass repetitive stress injuries and learning disabilities, as well as blindness, deafness and mobility impairment. We expect the ergopods to accommodate individuals with these disabilities."

Els Nieuwenhuijsen, a U-M postdoctoral fellow in rehabilitation research who provided input on the ergopods, said the units fit many users, not just one size.

"That's the advantage of the ergopod: adjustments can be made easily without taking time from the task at hand," she said.

Students, faculty and staff with disabilities previously visited the ATCS in Shapiro Undergraduate Library for specialized computer access. Now, this access will be available throughout campus, fulfilling the University's long-term goal.

"Imagine a blind student needing adaptive technology having to trudge through a Michigan snow storm to get to the ATCS while his classmates logged onto computers while still wearing their slippers in their dormitory," said Sam Goodin, director in the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities. "Ergopods placed strategically throughout campus will make it more convenient for students, resulting in one less worry during their college experience."

U-M Information Technology Central Services (ITCS) developed the workstation with ErgoQuest, Inc., a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm owned by U-M graduate Jeff Vanden Bosch ('98).

Knox said an ergopod also could reduce computer-related health problems, such as repetitive strain injury, by making it easier to use proper posture at the computer.

Related Links:

Workstation

U-M disabilities resources

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities

Contacts: Jared Wadley
Phone: (734) 936-7819
E-mail: jwadley@umich.edu

or

Contact: Kim Cobb
Phone: (734) 647 4408
E-mail: kimcobb@umich.edu