Accessibility in the Workplace – How to Become Inclusive Employers

Accessibility in the Workplace – How to Become Inclusive Employers

Accessibility in the workplace isn’t only about removing physical barriers for those with limited mobility. It also includes granting technological and communication accessibility to those with other disabilities (e.g., hearing disabilities) and building attitudinal awareness. In this article, we discuss why workplace accessibility is important and how to achieve it. We invite you to read on.

Why is Workplace Accessibility Crucial?

There are quite a few reasons why you want to create an accessible workplace. First of all, it lets you become a truly inclusive employer, an advantage that many potential and current employees will appreciate. Secondly, this will help you attract skilled employees with disabilities, who can create a lot of value in your company if the right conditions are created.

There are, naturally, also the legal requirements. For instance, the British 2010 Equality Act, requires employers to design their workplace with adjustments that will ensure that employees with disabilities are not discriminated against or have a large disadvantage compared to the rest of the workforce, and similar legislation exists in other countries (e.g. Americans with Disabilities Act in the US).

How to Ensure Accessibility in the Workplace

In order to provide accessibility in the workplace, you need to focus on three key areas: physical accessibility, technological accessibility, and attitudinal awareness. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Physical Accessibility

Building physical accessibility doesn’t only refer to offering modular office pods large enough for people on wheelchairs, or making sure the corridors are wide. It starts much earlier – at the point you choose your office location.

The main priority is to have an office that provides easy access to parking spaces for those with disabilities, as well as a short and easy way to the nearest public transportation stop. Only then can you proceed with the other steps.

After providing access to the elements above, you should focus on the accessibility of the office building. Here, it is important to install ramps next to stairs and an elevator that is large enough for a person in a wheelchair to enter and has buttons that are easy to reach for people with disabilities.

Lighting, corridor width, and access to each space are also important. The general rule here is: design the layout in such a way that a person in a wheelchair and a person with sight impairment might navigate easily.

You need to remember about all the facilities available in your workplace. This means offering toilets for those in a wheelchair, designing routes for those who are blind, and even using office booths or nursing pods that are adjusted to various disabilities. Otherwise, not only will your office fail to be accessible, but you even risk being fined for failing to comply with the legislation.

Technological Accessibility

Another key aspect, although unrelated to the office design or layout, is technological accessibility. To provide it, you must ensure that your employees can use all the crucial technology despite their disabilities.

In practice, this may mean, for instance, providing software that will read important documents and reports for the visually impaired and placing critical office equipment (printers, scanners, etc.) at heights that make it possible for people in wheelchairs to reach them.

You should also purchase any equipment that people with certain physical disabilities may need. This might include standing desks, one-handed keyboards, or dictation software. It’s good to consult this with those interested first, as it will give you better insights into what they need – often, you might not realize what small elements can be life-changing.

Attitudinal Awareness

The final element of building an accessible workplace is ensuring that the company and its employees have a proper attitude. After all, there are many myths and misconceptions about people with disabilities, so you will have to fight them off.

Here, we recommend organizing workshops with professionals from non-profit organizations for people with certain disabilities. It is also good to organize internal training and even ask those who have disabilities for feedback on how to improve the overall attitude in the company.

Additionally, you must not forget about monitoring the attitudinal barriers. This way, you’ll be able to react if you see any signs of discrimination and discover what misconceptions live in the minds of your employees.

The Takeaway

Accessibility in the workplace is a must, both legally and for the benefit of your organization. Therefore, eliminate any physical barriers, ensure that all the technology you use is easily accessible for those with disabilities, and conduct training that will dispel any misconceptions about disability among other employees. Only through this, will you create a truly accessible workplace.

You may also read: Neurodiversity in The Workplace - Why It Matters?

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