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5 Ways to Optimize Workplace Accessibility

5 Ways to Optimize Workplace Accessibility
5 Ways to Optimize Workplace Accessibility
Workplace accessibility is about creating an inclusive environment that caters to the everyday workplace experiences and activities of all employees, regardless of who they are.

Posted in: Digital Transformation
5 Ways to Optimize Workplace Accessibility
5 Ways to Optimize Workplace Accessibility

As the person in charge of recruitment for your organization, you are faced with the challenge of filling an urgent position that requires an experienced candidate. Despite interviewing numerous applicants, you have not found the right fit for the job. Finally, you come across an applicant with the necessary experience, but who also happens to have a disability.

As the HR personnel, you are now at a crossroads. You must decide whether to reject or accept the candidate. However, before making a decision, you must ask yourself whether your organization has the infrastructure and systems in place to accommodate a person with a disability.

If your organization has the necessary resources, that's great news and indicates that your workplace accessibility status is in order. However, it's important to go beyond just providing structures that enhance the productivity of persons with disabilities in your organization. 

Workplace accessibility is about creating an inclusive environment that caters to the everyday workplace experiences and activities of all employees, regardless of who they are.

Even if your organization currently has no employees with disabilities, workplace accessibility is still a crucial consideration. It encompasses every aspect of the workplace experience and impacts all employees. 

Therefore, it's important for organizations to optimize the concept of workplace accessibility and incorporate it into their systems.

In summary, workplace accessibility is about creating an inclusive environment that accommodates the needs of all employees. 

It's a vital consideration for any organization, and organizations must work towards optimizing the concept to create a truly accessible workplace. 

​Accessibility In The Workplace - What is it?

​Accessibility In The Workplace - What is it

Accessibility in the workplace refers to the practice of creating a work environment that is inclusive and accessible to all employees, including those with disabilities or other diverse needs. 

It involves removing barriers and creating solutions that allow employees to perform their job duties and participate in workplace activities, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. 

Accessibility in the workplace encompasses a wide range of factors, such as physical accessibility, the use of assistive technologies, flexible work arrangements, and accommodations for individuals with disabilities. 

It is a vital aspect of creating an inclusive and diverse workplace, and it can benefit both employees and employers in numerous ways, such as improved productivity, higher job satisfaction, and enhanced innovation and creativity. 

It also involves providing easy access to software and resources that can enhance employee performance, as well as ensuring that the physical environment is accessible and accommodating for people with disabilities. 

This includes considerations such as building design, signage, lighting, noise levels, and parking spaces. 

The availability of these physical amenities is essential for individuals with disabilities, whether they are employees or visitors to the workplace. 

By prioritizing workplace accessibility, organizations can create a welcoming and inclusive environment that benefits all individuals, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities.

Why is accessibility in the workplace important?

Organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of having a diverse workforce, and the positive outcomes it can bring. 

According to various reports and surveys, there is still a significant gap between what is required by law and what companies are currently doing to provide accessibility in the workplace. 

Many companies have yet to fully embrace the concept of workplace accessibility, and there is a need for more awareness and education in this area. 

However, there are also examples of companies that are doing an excellent job of promoting workplace accessibility and inclusivity, and it is encouraging to see a growing recognition of the benefits of having an inclusive and diverse workforce.

A diverse workforce can enhance productivity, boost morale, foster collaboration and critical thinking, and help organizations reach a wider range of clients.

Disability accessibility is crucial not only during the recruitment and onboarding processes but also for retaining current employees with disabilities. Under the Equality Act (2010), employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that workers with disabilities or physical or mental health conditions are not substantially disadvantaged while performing their jobs. 

This requirement applies to all types of workers, including trainees, apprentices, contract workers, and business partners. 

What 5 Ways Can Your Organization Optimize Workplace Accessibility

What 5 Ways Can Your Organization Optimize Workplace Accessibility

  1. Ensure the physical environment is accessible. 

 This is quite important. An organization that wants to optimize workplace accessibility would ensure the organization's structure suits the disabled. Part of the things to put in place is ensuring parking spaces are close to the worksite entrance. To do this effectively, you can book your parking online with Wayleadr.

The organization should make sure there are steps or abrupt level changes on the pathway from the parking area to the entrance of the building. It will be great if access ramps are graded and with handrails.

You'd also want to be sure the doors are at least 36 inches wide for a wheelchair to come through and are easy to open. If you have a tall building, it's only necessary to make lifts available and accessible.

Ensure there are emergency buttons in the lift in the case of an emergency or, perhaps, the lift fails at any point. In addition, you'd also want to make sure the signage inside and outside the workplace is large and easy to read.

Use easily recognizable symbols such as the Universal Symbol of Accessibility. Do not place the signage where it could reduce access to stairs or lift.

2. Establish an all-inclusive workspace.

This, perhaps, is one of the first things organizations that want to optimize workplace accessibility should do. In the past, organizations did not hire persons with disabilities.

The reasons for this are diverse. Some employers believe people with disabilities are inactive and will underperform. Others believe it takes more resources to maintain a disabled employee than his abled counterpart.

To back up the claim, research from the U.S. Census conducted in 2000 reveals a total of 33 million people are disabled and are between 16 and 64 years old.

The research showed that fewer than 56% of them are employed. 

However, in 2022, the U.S bureau of labor statistics indicates only about a third of individuals with disabilities are employed.

Away from persons with disabilities, it is also crucial to note that organizations that have biases in gender, nationality, and ethnicity when they recruit only limit themselves to the diverse pool of talents.

So, your organization has decided to be different. You want to promote workplace accessibility. It should start with your employers. Establish an all-inclusive workspace that's devoid of segregation and discrimination.

Employees with disabilities should be welcomed and shown respect in the team. Discriminatory behaviors such as backlash, gossip, downgrading, and pity should be prohibited.

When people with disabilities notice they're not tolerated on the team, they lose their self-esteem, which can negatively affect their productivity on the job. 

3.Employ Assistive Technologies

The world as we have it today is driven by technology. With emerging innovations, it is easier to make your workplace accessible and inclusive. Nowadays, there are computers with built-in assistive technologies.

To meet the needs of your disabled employees, you can use devices with speech recognition, braille keyboards or displays, sign language apps, and so on. These tools make your employees carry out their tasks hitch-free.

It would be great if you provide live call transcription, mono sound, and closed captioning to employees with hearing impairments.

Suppose you'd let any of your employees with visual or hearing impairments use the company website. In that case, proper site navigation should be made available.

It could be an additional option at the topmost part of the standard point-and-click interface. You can also employ voice navigation or, perhaps, the integration of a special keyboard.

Other assistive technologies include adjustable desks, monitors, and narrator-to-read text. The availability of these tools tends to improve the performance of employees with disabilities.

They're happy for the support of the organization, and they, in turn, want to be productive and achieve its aims. 

4.Communicate with your employees.

Communication is vital in any organization. You'd be surprised not all employees know the organization supports workplace accessibility. It's crucial to have cogent discussions around the subject.

In this case, communication has to be done in two ways. Employees listen to the employer, and vice-versa. At this point, the employer takes note of individual concerns and how to proffer solutions to them.

By having regular discussions around an all-inclusive workplace, the gap between employees and their disabled counterparts is closed. A more significant percentage of them would put their disabled colleagues first as a human before they think about their disabilities.

This also has a ripple effect on the disabled; they feel loved and can develop and succeed in their jobs. 

5.Implement flexible work hours or remote work.

 This is another way to optimize workplace accessibility. It is usual for employees to be stressed from work, which may be hard for people with mental health impairments.

Taking breaks at work is essential. They'd help reduce pressure and let employees be less overwhelmed with work. In addition, some organizations offer meditation programs for their employees.

They can help reduce blood pressure, help realign the mind and body, ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve focus and decision-making.

On the flip side, working from home is perhaps more accessible for those whose disabilities are invisible. Many disabled persons feel more comfortable, safe, and productive in their abode.

This is because when they work from home, they can take care of themselves without judgment. However, the organization in question must provide the necessary tools to make working from home seamless.

As an employer, you can give adequate time for your employees to prepare for meetings so they don't feel pressured. This is particularly helpful for neurodiverse people.

You'd also do well to share meeting agendas ahead of time so that neurodiverse people get enough time to assess necessary materials, especially if they need to contribute to the meeting.

Some disabilities are invisible, but accessibility should be visible to all.

After all that has been said about workplace accessibility, it is crucial to know that some disabilities are invisible to the eye. They're hidden. It is only when the sufferers exhibit them that you notice.

A recent survey revealed that 62% of employees have hidden disabilities that they don't talk about. They range from hearing loss, fatigue disorders, chronic pain, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, depression, anxiety, etc.

In a nutshell, accessibility and inclusiveness should go beyond making provisions for visible disabilities and impairments alone. The workplace should be fit for everyone, irrespective of their disabilities, to thrive.

Adapting the workplace

To promote workplace accessibility, organizations can implement several measures to support individuals with disabilities. 

These measures may include creating or designating parking spaces near building entrances and exits for people with limited mobility, providing step-free access to buildings, installing automatic doors for individuals with limited dexterity, and installing lifts and ramps. 

Additionally, braille can be added to elevator buttons and doors/signage, accessible toilets can be made available, and access to shared amenities such as microwaves and kettles can be ensured. 

Having a lowered reception desk can also be beneficial for individuals who use wheelchairs or have limited mobility. 

These measures can significantly improve accessibility for people with disabilities and promote a more inclusive workplace.

How to ensure people know how your workplace is accessile

To ensure that people are aware of the accessibility features in your workplace, organizations can take several steps. These may include:

  • Organizations can create a dedicated section on their website to highlight the accessibility features available in the workplace.
  • When posting job vacancies, organizations can include information about accessibility in the workplace to encourage job seekers with disabilities to apply.
  • Organizations can train their employees on accessibility awareness and how to interact with individuals with disabilities.
  • Signage can be displayed throughout the workplace to indicate the location of accessibility features such as accessible toilets, parking spaces, and wheelchair ramps.
  • Regular audits can be conducted to identify areas where accessibility can be improved and to ensure that the workplace is compliant with relevant accessibility laws and regulations.

By taking these steps, organizations can promote awareness and understanding of their workplace's accessibility features, and demonstrate their commitment to creating an inclusive and accommodating workplace for all employees.

Final thoughts

A lack of workplace accessibility has always been a barrier for people with disabilities. However, the times are slowly changing, and organizations are beginning to recognize the benefits of having a diverse workforce and the importance of accessibility in the workplace.

As an employer, it's important to admit when you need guidance and support. 

Start by asking employees with disabilities about their needs and finding out what accommodations and support they require. 

Although we still have a long way to go, I believe that by educating organizations and encouraging employers to ask questions, we can build a more inclusive future for all.

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Tuesday, 28 May 2024
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