In Australia, about 20% of people report some kind of disability. It might be a minor one or might be something major. Regardless of the case, you can’t expect to only hire people with no disability whatsoever. Not to mention that rejecting them because of their disability may also lead to them filing a lawsuit.
They may be completely able to finish a task that you assigned to them. However, because your office is not inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities, matters are made rather difficult. In order to make your office accessible to all kinds of workers (or maybe even clients), here are some suggestions that you might want to keep in mind.
- Remove Any Physical Barriers
The first thing that you might want to do when making your office more accessible is to remove any physical barriers. In this regard, you might want to create parking spaces for people that have disabilities, wheelchair-accessible entries, elevators, and anything that might make it physically easier for the disabled to move through the building. This way, you will help the people with moving disabilities move around the building, preventing any physical barriers.
- Use Assistive Technology
In order to make your office more inclusive and accessible, you may also want to make use of assistive technology. Bear in mind that not every disability can be seen – and in this case, assistive technology can help those that have other less visible impairments. It’s good for those who can’t hear, can’t see, and so on. Assistive technology involves the following:
- Braille displays or keyboards
- Software and devices that have speech recognition
- Screen reading software
- Apps for sign language
- Devices for assistive listening
- Color-coded keyboards
By giving your employees access to all the basic tools that they may need, you should also be able to improve productivity in the office. This way, people with disabilities should be able to carry out their tasks without any issues.
- Offer Special Equipment
Closely related to removing any physical barriers is the addition of special equipment. When you remove barriers, you typically address a wider, general problem. However, when you add special equipment in the mix, you are addressing a more narrowed-down problem. Some employees, for example, might need a height-adjustable desk, whereas others may require an accessible washroom. Mobility aid suppliers and specialists such as those from Breeze Mobility should be able to advise you on that matter.
Ideally, you may want to discuss with your employee beforehand, particularly if you already know who you are going to hire. Ask them directly about the things that will make it easier for them to work. What changes in the environment will help them finish their tasks smoothly? In some cases, hiring a consultant could also be a good idea, as they are usually aware of the necessary changes.
- Implement Flexible Schedules or Remote Work
You may have the best office and the comfiest settings, but if someone has a more severe disability, they may not be able to stay there for a full schedule. They might have to clock out at some point, or work at different hours – occasionally even work from home. Some people with disabilities might have difficulties in commuting all the time. So, if possible, they should be given the opportunity to conduct the same activity from home.
Think about it. If a person has a disability, the chances are very high that they might also have to go to check-ups and other appointments. They might not be able to make a 9 to 5 job no matter how much they may try. This is why giving them the option of a flexible schedule might help make their job much easier.
- Create a Less Stressful Environment
Some people with certain disabilities might not be able to handle stress very well. Certain cues might trigger people with mental health impairments, which is why you might want to balance out the stress levels in your office.
This doesn’t mean you should make the place too relaxing – but instead, try to make it so that the employees aren’t bombarded with stress at every corner. Consider adding a meditation station, encourage lunch breaks – or even go for no-meeting days. This way, even if they will be expected to provide a certain amount of work, they will also have the means of balancing out everything else.
- Enforce Disability Etiquette
You may have the fanciest workplace with all the equipment etiquette – but if people do not have basic disability etiquette, then everything may be for nothing. Keep in mind that certain expressions and words may express biases towards those that have a disability – which is why you need to make sure proper etiquette is followed.
Overall, here are some of the steps that you may take here:
- Do not use language that has negative connotations
- Avoid using pity towards people that have a disability
- Refrain from interfering all the time with the work of a disabled person
- Do not stare at someone that has a disability
In most cases, people with disabilities just want to fit in. Therefore, if they are constantly shown pity or stared at, they will not feel very good about it. Even if you are trying to help, sometimes, they do not want others interfering – particularly if it is something that they can do themselves. Teach proper disability etiquette to your employers and you will make the office much more inclusive.
- Understand It’s Always a “Work in Progress”
One thing that you will have to keep in mind is that you’ll never be done with the improvement work. Technologies are continuously changing, needs are always reassessed – and for this reason, you should see this project as a “work in progress” at all times. This is why you should hire a consultant in the matter, as they will be able to keep you up to speed with everything.
The Bottom Line
People with disabilities want to work too – and even if they may be impaired in some areas, they excel in others as well. This is why you should make sure that your office accessibility meets all the standards – therefore, ensuring a better work environment.