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New at Taubman Medical Library: Ergo-assistive computer workstation

A new ergo-assistive computer workstation is available at the Taubman Medical Library for those with special needs.

The workstation features an Aeron ergonomic chair by the Herman Miller Co.; an ergonomically correct Microsoft keyboard; and a 21-inch, high-resolution Gateway computer monitor, which makes viewing easier. In addition, there are three mouse devices offered at the workstation to allow for alternative hand movements: a standard three-button Gateway mouse, a 3M "joystick" ergonomic mouse and a Microsoft trackball.

The ErgoQuest Model 500 workstation is motorized so the tabletop can be tilted and the height adjusted with a push of a button to accommodate patrons who are sitting or standing. The keyboard tray and monitor stand also are adjustable and moveable, to support various working positions. There are no barriers underneath the workstation, allowing comfortable wheelchair access.

"We became aware that students, faculty, staff and others with special needs might be unintentionally excluded from being able to make full use of the University Library's information resources," says Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, information services librarian at the Taubman Medical Library. "Many people prefer not to disclose a disability, and don't ask for the special resources that could easily be provided to improve their educational experience. Other individuals have no actual physical or mental impairment, but would like to use ergonomically correct computer equipment in order to prevent injuries."

The National Institutes of Health estimates that 21 percent of the U.S. population has some sort of disabilitywhether a physical impairment, learning or developmental disorder, or mental illness. In addition, chances are that most of the population will experience at least a temporary disability at some point, due to incorrect computer use, physical injury or aging.

The workstation, which was fully installed in the first-floor reference area of the Taubman Medical Library in late Nov. 2002, has received many positive comments. Students with repetitive strain injury and tendonitis have applauded its ergonomic features, and others with mobility and vision impairment have indicated interest.

"Response to our efforts has demonstrated that the population of persons with disabilities on campus is larger than initially realized," says Theresa Arndt, head of outreach services at the Taubman Medical Library.

The ergonomic computer workstation was designed by U-M architecture graduate Jeff Vanden Bosch. Vanden Bosch built his first prototype for the Media Union while still a graduate student, and went on to found ErgoQuest (http://www.ergoquest.com), which designs and manufactures computer workstations for those with special needs.

The Taubman Medical Library ergo-assistive workstation is the third such facility on campus. The others are the Adaptive Technology Computing Site (ATCS) in the basement of Shapiro Undergraduate Library, which consists of eight workstations, and an ATCS in the lower level of the Media Union, with five workstations.

Information about the new ergo-assistive workstation can be found at: http://www.lib.umich.edu/taubman/specialneeds.html. Comments or questions about accessibility at the Taubman Medical Library or the workstation may be referred to Anna Ercoli Schnitzer at (734) 936-1402 or schnitzr@umich.edu, or Theresa Arndt at (734) 936-1397 or tarndt@umich.edu.

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