A chair is just a chair—until a person can’t sit in it.
Look around your office: in the conference room, the reception area, the lunch room. You have enough chairs, but do you have any that can accommodate a person who’s morbidly obese (defined as weighing 100% or more over ideal body weight)?
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 1 in 20 adults are considered to have extreme obesity. Many of those could be customers, job candidates and other visitors to your workplace.
Embarrassment aside for you and the obese person who can’t take a seat, there is also the legal side to the issue.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commis-sion’s compliance manual on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), obesity is addressed as follows:
[B]eing overweight, in and of itself, is not generally an impairment … On the other hand, severe obesity, which has been defined as body weight more than 100% over the norm, is clearly an impairment. In addition, a person with obesity may have an underlying or resultant physiological disorder, such as hypertension or a thyroid disorder. A physiological disorder is an impairment.
In other words, you may be required to provide a special chair as a reasonable accommodation.
Your solution: bariatric chairs, also known as extra-wide guest seating. The chairs are not only built to accommodate the girth of an obese person, but also have the rigor to hold the extra weight, some with the capacity to bear over 1,000 pounds.
The chairs come in many styles, fabrics and colors and cost $200 and up.
Tip: Keep these chairs out as part of your everyday furniture. Storing them and dragging one out in the presence of the obese person would create an embarrassing moment—for both of you.