Disability rights and accessibility are an evergreen concern for businesses, but only recently have companies begun to take the needs of their disabled staff more seriously. If you’re new to leadership or starting a new business, you may be looking for clear and simple ways you can improve workplace accessibility; here are some actionable steps you can take to facilitate disabled staff members.
An essential provision for cultivating an accessible workspace is that of step-free access. Wheelchair users and others with limited mobility are effectively prevented from accessing areas of an office if steps are involved. By investing heavily in smart, accessible ramp solutions and even lifts for steeper inclines, workspaces can clearly signpost their support for disabled staff and make their movement around the office significantly easier in the process.
One of the more practical ways in which you can immediately improve accessibility for disabled staff members is to designate parking spaces closest to your office as disabled-only spaces. If you rent a serviced office space, these spaces may already be available.
For a building and car park your business owns, though, designating spaces is as easy as marking out disabled spaces with concrete floor paint to differentiate them from others. A simple company-wide email can ensure everyone is aware of the change, and that disabled employees get equitable access to the building.
Flexible Working Agreements
In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, flexible working arrangements – whether flexible hours or remote working agreements – are more common than ever before. This has been a godsend for disabled communities, where the prior status quo may have made it harder for individuals to agitate for flexible accommodations that could make their working life easier.
It is also important to remember that not all disabilities are visible. There are many across the country that suffer from disabilities and conditions that do not present obvious symptoms, and which can make regular office hours unworkable. By extending flexible working arrangements to staff, you are enabling employees to manage their symptoms in an equitable manner – improving productivity and empowering disabled staff members.
Company culture is an intrinsic part of accessibility within a business. Much attention is given to physical accommodations, and rightly so – but making token interventions for physical access can ring hollow if company policy and wider company culture do not reflect equitable and positive values.
As such, your business should be making every effort to create a warm, welcoming and inclusive environment that does not take disabled employees or their struggles for granted. Sensitivity training can be a useful asset in certain situations, but more general accessibility training and the fostering of a sociable, friendly team can have a profound effect on the emotional accessibility of a workplace.