The modern work environment is one of inclusivity, in which everyone should be allowed to reach their greatest productivity and potential. To do this, employers must strive to achieve workplace accessibility on every level.
Differently-abled employees can provide valuable contributions, but only if the work environment and company cultureadapt to an accessible reality where limitations simply become a new way of doing things.
This blog will help guide you through the key steps toward building a more accessible workplace where everyone, regardless of their physical abilities, nuerological differences, or life circumstances can thrive.
We will explore methods including wheelchair-friendly design, the latest assistive technology, nurturing an inclusive company culture, and creating flexible policies to break down barriers and empower every employee.
Join us as we unravel how to turn your company into a beacon of accessibility in the workplace and inclusivity, where potential knows no bounds.
Check Your Office Environment for Accessibility
Physical accessibility starts with the design of your office. Office design should accommodate both common and unforeseen physical limitations that might be represented in your workforce, clients, or visitors. This includes people in wheelchairs, using walkers or crutches, those who simply move with difficulty, and sensory impairment. Following a few best practices ensures everyone will be able to navigate and thrive in your facility.
Ramps, Lifts, and Door Buttons
Accessible workplaces ensure that building has physical accessibility for people using wheels or who have a personal limitation navigating stairs. Every step should have a wheelchair ramps or a lift, from the parking spaces to the top floor. Watch out for single steps and split-level designs, as these are the most likely to form an unnoticed accessibility barrier.
Ergonomic Chairs and Wheelchair Friendly Desks
Many people need to adapt their desk arrangements. Invisible disabilities like back and mobility problems may require a special chair, while desks should also be adaptable to removing the chair for wheelchair access.
Don't overlook the restrooms. This is an essential area for physical accessibility of all types. Accessible workplaces have at least one accessible workplace restroom and unisex restroom for each location/floor/department/unit of your business.
Wheelchair-Considerate Sign Heights
Don't place signs too high for seated individuals to reach or read. If a person in a wheelchair can't reach the sign. This also avoids height-based ableism as some humans are less than five feet tall.
Braille and Raised Number Signage
For every permanent sign, include braille and/or raised numbers to assist the blind and people with visual impairments. Consider dynamic braille displays for emplaced digital signage.
Full and Unwavering Lighting
Provide clear, unflickering lighting for all areas where employees or visitors may navigate.
Hallways Clear of Storage
Respect physical accessibility by preventing clutter or storage in hallways or accessibly designed spaces. This allows enough room for wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility-assistive modes of navigation.
Digital Accessibility Options
Accessible technology is one of the great advantages of our high-tech society.
Information and communication technology makes it possible to overcome a vast range of sensory and physical disabilities.
There are many different digital accessibility apps, computer programs, and devices that specialise in helping people with a wide range of impairments achieve their full performance potential by working around their disabilities.
Visual Impairment Settings
Settings that change the colour-scheme, contrast, or element size on screens can help people with many different types of visual impairment.
Voice to Text and Text to Speech
Voice-to-text programs allow people with mobility limitations to take notes and operate computers, while text-to-speech is assistive for those who are blind or visually impaired. Screen readers are a well-known type of accessibility technology, while closed captions make videos accessible for the hearing impaired.
Pair Signage with Direct Messaging
Not everyone can read digital signs in the public forum, so be sure to send the most important messages through email or your internal messenger. Use technology accessibility to bridge the gap. Direct messages can be translated so that employees who can't read the signs receive critical information and regular reminders of protocols.
Ensure Touch Screens Have Accessible App Options
Blind employees cannot use touch screens, so be sure any touch screen interfaces can interface with braille-friendly alternatives for things like door controls or service kiosks. Braille signage is essential for common-use building features.
Remote and Hybrid Work Environments
Technological accessibility also makes it possible for those with extensive workplace-related limitations to build their own work environment and work from home. Remote work is a great option to access talent that could not otherwise operate in a typical workplace.
Cultivating an Accessibility-Conscious Culture
Company culture is critical when it comes to creating accessibility in the workplace. Your team must be able to adapt to differently-abled coworkers, providing a supportive and friendly culture without the common mistakes of over-compensating, ignoring, or under-estimating ability differences. This can take work, but with dedication, you can cultivate an accessibility-conscious and inclusive workplace culture that welcomes diverse members and empowers each person to achieve their best.
Building an Ability-Positive Team
Start with the goal of creating an ability-positive team of people who empower one another and are able to show consideration without bias. Because many people have no idea what to expect from various disabilities, send everyone through disability awareness and diversity training so they gain a better understanding of how disabilities affect capability and how to politely collaborate with people who have conditions they may not understand.
Use language and company values that focus on individual achievement using whatever tools work best for each person. This includes referring to people with disabilities instead of disabled workers.
Considering Ability in Event Planning & Task Assignments
Remove ability assumptions when it comes to planning events or assigning tasks. For example, not everyone in the company can go on a group hike, manage stock duty, or suddenly take on a customer-facing role due to accessibility issues that are not always apparent. Disability inclusion is a skill that can be learned. It's important to have a full idea of what each employee can do, including neurological limitations like social or learning disabilities as well as physical limitations.
Fostering Independence Through Accessibility
If you want to rock at being an accessible workplace, focus on independence. Make your accessibility goals seek to empower differently-abled employees rather than coddle them. Ask what they need to compete instead of assuming every differently-abled person needs light work. Provide tools like automatic doors and assistive technology that foster independence and the whole team will function with greater effectiveness together.
Overcoming Unconscious Ableism
Be aware of ableism and seek to overcome it. Both conscious and unconscious ableism comes from assumptions about what differently-abled people can and can't do. A common example is assuming a physical disability equals a mental disability, or underestimating the effectiveness of assistive technology in overcoming a limitation.
Talk about ableism and honestly seek to help dissipate any lingering bias or misunderstandings.
A Clear Procedure for Handling Bias
When bias does become present, have a clear process to handle it. Everyone should know how and to whom to report a biased incident. It should also be OK to report both negative incidents (harassment or denial of opportunity) and unwanted positive incidence (obsequious door opening and positive-belittling) when problems arise.
Available Resources to Seek Disability Assistance
Create discreet channels for employees to seek the disability assistance they need in seeking reasonable accommodations. This should include those with "invisible disabilities" like back problems or learning disorders that can be overcome with a few small adjustments to their duties, schedule, or environment.
The Ability to Adapt to New Conditions
Lastly, prepare your team to adapt. Not every person has a common or easily understood disability, but an inclusive and accessible work environment can handle new accommodations and empowerment plans in stride.
Lifestyle Accessibility Considerations
When talking about accessibility in the workplace, it's also important to consider an accessible environment for people from different walks of life. For example, not everyone has a car. Many people have dependents at home, both young and old. Some people don't have spare income or weekends to spend on company events due to hardship, conflicting responsibilities, or mental health conditions. Some are attending night school, some have demanding personal care routines, and some are extremely sensitive to sunlight. Make sure your workplace environment and company culture can welcome talent whose lives do not fit into your typical assumed formations.
Near to Public Transportation & Bicycle Racks
Be considerate of employees who do not own a car. If possible, make sure your workplace is accessible from public transportation. You may also want to include a security-monitored bike rack in the lobby for those that choose the eco-friendly option getting to work.
Avoid Asking Employees to Expense Travel, Time, or Supplies
Don't assume that employees have spare time or spare funds, no matter what their hours or how much they are paid. Many people are fully utilised for personal reasons that they are allowed not to disclose. Make a policy never to ask employees to cover company expenses - even if they will be reimbursed - and always ask before assuming anyone has free time to spare.
Parent-Friendly Hours or On-Site Daycare
Every workplace includes parents, and family time is important. Provide family-friendly hours that are adapted to local school district hours. If you need parents to stay through typical parenting hours, offer on-site daycare, after-school programs, or subsidise parents seeking their own childcare solutions.
Student-Friendly Scheduling and Professional Development
Consider that both young and older people may be students with classes to attend. Offer to build a functional schedule around their classes or offer internal development alternatives that can provide equally valuable accreditation.
Night Hours and Opportunities
There are natural night owls and people who work in the night for a variety of medical reasons. Having night-friendly hours and policies can open up a world of productivity for both your company and your night-owl employees.
Flexibility in Accessible Accommodation
Lastly, prepare for flexibility in how you accommodate your employees. You never know when the next incredible talent to apply for a role will be differently-abled, or what their abilities may be. Your next ace with all the right skills may need an assistive technology you've never heard of, a chair you don't have in stock, or a sensitivity you're unfamiliar with. As long as your workplace accessibility policies and culture remain inclusive and flexible to accessibility, both you and your workforce will thrive together.
Shiftbase makes it easy to adapt your task and schedule assignments based on the individual needs of your team members. Whether you're accommodating a treatment schedule or sending out accessible announcements, we can help you achieve your goals for accessibility in the workplace.