An inclusive workplace is less likely to have a high staff turnover, according to the National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE). To be inclusive you need to make your office as accessible as possible so that people of all abilities can access and maneuver around the building.
But, one study found that one-third of unemployed disabled people have come across employment barriers, including inaccessible workplaces. With this in mind, here’s how you can make your office more accessible so you can hire a more diverse workforce.
One of the first things you should look at is how wide the passageways, walkways, and doors are within your business. On average, a wheelchair can be anything between 25 inches and 36 inches wide, so take this into consideration when planning the layout of your office.
A wheelchair user needs to comfortably be able to travel around the office so that they feel part of the team and can interact with their colleagues just as much as their non-disabled colleagues. You mustn’t forget the clearance space a wheelchair needs to turn around, either.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that this needs to be a 60″ diameter clear area. Doors are a big problem for many disabled workers. Often they are tricky to open and close, the weight of the door is too much, or the door handle is not suitable for the individual’s needs.
The best way to deal with these problems is to have automatic doors installed so that everyone can safely get in and out of the office.
Your office will already be home to lots of physical features, such as stairs, steps, and lighting. But you need to make sure that these are accessible to everyone. An elevator is essential for wheelchair users and people with mobility issues.
If you maintain yours regularly, it will have just 0.5 to 2 breakdowns per year. Another feature to concentrate on is elevator buttons and light switches. These all need to be at a suitable height so that someone in a wheelchair can use them without assistance. This is crucial as it promotes independence and ensures that the individual maintains their integrity.
The flooring you have in your office is another thing to think about. Floor mats and carpets are trip hazards and are not ideal for wheelchair users. Commercial-grade vinyl is a good option as it is hardy, low-maintenance, and provides a solid, safe surface for all workers.
Don’t Forget The Exterior
The Bureau of Labor of Statistics (BLS) reports that more than 21% of employed disabled people work in office-based occupations. This number could be even greater if you remember to focus on adapting the exterior of your premises.
If a disabled person can’t even gain access to your building, there’s no point in making it accessible inside. A smooth, safe walkway needs to be provided so that people with visual impairments don’t risk hurting themselves.
The pathway also needs to be wide enough so a wheelchair can travel over it. Good exterior lighting is important for all employees, but people with visual or physical disabilities will need this for safety reasons.
To ensure that people can safely get into your premises, avoid steps and install a ramp instead. Railings are also a good option for people with mobility issues that need support.
Provide Adaptive Equipment And Assistive Technology
The most common reason why businesses don’t hire disabled people is that they worry about the associated costs. This shouldn’t be a concern though as most employers say they’ve paid out no more than $500 and financial support is available.
As disabled workers have a high job retention rate, it’s certainly worth investing inaccessible equipment and assistive technology for them. This may include height-adjustable desks, anti-glare screens, sit-stand desks, speech recognition, braille, screen magnifiers, and large-key keyboards.
Having this equipment and technology at hand will make the disabled worker’s life easier. It will allow them to do their job effectively too and will ensure that your business is meeting the legislation set out in the ADA.
A designated disabled toilet is a must as you can be sure that it’s fully adapted to suit your disabled workers’ needs. It also gives workers privacy should they require it. Other facilities to adjust include the kitchen and break areas.
Make sure worktops are at a suitable height or are height adjustable. Things such as kettles and microwaves are usually placed on top of countertops.
If these aren’t reachable, consider a separate counter or trolley instead. Touchless drink dispensers are also ideal for people with disabilities that affect their joints.
The saying “less is more” couldn’t be more important when setting up an accessible office. Stick to the minimum amount of office furniture possible so that workers who use mobility aids can freely move around without hurting themselves.
Carefully think about the design of your break room too. If you have a large sofa in there it can make the room feel cluttered and make disabled people feel like they’re not welcome to use the room. You must not have electrical wires laying across your office floor either.
These are a trip hazard and could seriously injure a worker with a visual or physical impairment. Keep everyone safe by using rubber cable mats that stick to the floor or under desk cable management trays.
Introduce Quiet Areas
Around 4% of people in the U.S. have Auditory Processing Disorder and can’t tolerate noise. People with other disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fibromyalgia, may also have problems working in loud environments.
Introducing quiet working areas for these individuals is a great way to make them feel happy and comfortable at work and for your office to be truly accessible. These areas could simply be separate rooms where just a handful of workers can work.
Other things you can do to help these workers include providing noise-canceling headsets and allowing them to take more breaks than they usually would. You may also want to think about introducing flexible and remote working patterns if you don’t already.
Disabled people with sensory issues will benefit from working in the comfort of their own homes from time to time. Working in an office with fewer people can also be advantageous for them, especially if one of their main triggers is noise.
Welcome Assistance Dogs
There are around 500,000 service dogs in America, according to Hepper. Assistance dogs can help disabled workers as they can guide people with visual impairments, fetch items, and provide support.
If you have workers with a hearing impairment, an assistance dog can help them to recognize daily sounds, as well as important ones, such as a fire alarm going off.
Therefore, they can improve safety in the office. Studies have found that service dogs can increase productivity in the workplace, so they’re beneficial to both workers and your business.
In recent years, many employers have made adaptations to their office spaces to make them more accessible. But it’s clear to see that there’s still a lot more that can be done before disabled people feel completely happy to take up a job in an office environment.