Living With Polio


Ergonomics is an interdisciplinary field concerned with the performance and safety of individuals at work, how people cope with the work environment, interact with machines, and, in general, negotiate their work surroundings. Applying this knowledge to all environments, tools, tasks, and jobs produces ones that are safe, comfortable, and effective. As strength and endurance decrease, the use of ergonomic principles will assist polio survivors in remaining employed, living in their own homes, and accessing their communities.

The focus of ergonomics is to match the design of products, tools, and environments with the abilities of the person who uses them. For example, an ergonomically designed faucet has a bar handle that can be moved with fingers or a fist; the spade used for gardening has a large grip area and an angled shaft; the computer workstation is at a stress-preventing height; the chair has proper support. At home, the refrigerator has a low freezer compartment; the counter height is lower to accommodate a wheelchair user. In the community, entry to the post office is accessed with an automatic door opener; the bars for support in restrooms are at the proper height.

One member of the rehabilitation team who has considerable knowledge about ergonomics is the occupational therapist. By evaluating an individual in the workplace, at home, or in the community, the therapist can make recommendations about adaptive tools, equipment, or environments to accommodate the abilities and improve quality of life.

Excerpt from PHI’s “Handbook on the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis for Physicians and Survivors.” © 1999 

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