While inclusivity has been the focus of workplaces recently, it is also important that offices and organizations focus on making their spaces accessible and equitable for their employees. This means removing barriers from their spaces so everybody gets a fair share of tools and tasks required to perform their role properly and efficiently.
Accessibility is crucial to ensuring that every employee in an organization is working with the same tools to perform their role. When everyone begins on an equal footing, it gives everyone a fair chance to do their jobs with the utmost efficiency, and a chance at producing the best possible results. Focusing on this along with diversity will ensure that there isn’t a missing link in access that is being provided to everyone.
Accessibility doesn’t just mean equipping everyone with the right physical infrastructure to make things easier. It also applies to technological and web accessibility. All employees must be provided with access to physical as well as digital resources for performing their jobs.
While equality would mean equipping everyone with the same tools to do their job, equity would mean equipping everyone with the tools that it would take to give everyone the best chance at performing their best. That takes an individual person’s needs into consideration rather than making a sweeping generalization about an organization’s workforce.
What does accessibility mean in the workplace?
There are different dimensions for which accessibility is considered. These dimensions are, physical accessibility, technological accessibility, and attitudinal awareness.
- Physical accessibility: Making spaces physically accessible includes providing spaces within parking lots, creating appropriate entrances and exits, having the kind of elevators, restrooms, and break areas that facilitate easy accessibility for everyone working in an organization.
- Technological accessibility: Accessible technology is such that all users can use it without the need for any assistive technology. There are steps that can be taken to ensure technological accessibility. According to the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), “accessibility means that everyone can use the exact same technology as anyone else—regardless of whether they can manipulate a mouse, how much vision they have, how many colors they can see, how much they can hear or how they process information.”
- Attitudinal awareness: Organizations must also ensure that the attitude of an organization makes every employee feel welcome in the space. This includes ensuring that employees with disabilities are not seen as inferior, are not pitied, or are not stereotyped within the workplace. Employers can help break down attitudinal barriers in the workplace by engaging employees in discussions about disability and providing training to increase employees’ perspectives and understanding.
How to achieve accessibility in the workplace?
To achieve accessibility in the workplace, there can be many small actionable things that can be done.
- Changing physical features
An organization can ensure that there are the right physical resources for an employee to spend eight or nine hours in the workplace. This could include adding appropriate steps and stairs, pathways, passageways, elevators, as well as the right lighting and ventilation.
- Providing Specialist Equipment
This includes anti-glare screens, ergonomic office features, height-adjustable desks and seating, and such.
- Using Assistive Technology
Assistive technology can help those employees with visual or hearing impairments. Organizations could use braille displays and keyboards, color-coded keyboards, software with speech recognition, and text-activated speech.
- Assess immediate needs
With the assessment of an organization’s immediate needs, there can be space to make an organization as accessible as possible without any further delay. Therefore, with efforts for immediate accessibility, the process can be made more approachable for everyone involved.
- Train organizations effectively
The process starts at home. Organizations should be well-equipped to communicate with and make space for employees with disabilities. Hiring managers should be well-equipped to interview candidates with disabilities. Similarly, management should be prepared to avoid situations where people with disabilities are not given the same treatment that everyone else is.
Not only will accessibility, diversity, and equity give everyone a fair chance at performing the best, it will also bring goodwill to the company regarding its working conditions. It will increase employee morale, productivity, as well as retention. This goodwill can act as an efficient recruiting tool– it will do wonders for a candidate to know that a company will go to great lengths to ensure that they smoothen out whatever obstacles stand in an employee’s way of performance.
Workplace accessibility will bring pride and positivity to the work that an employee does, and motivate them to keep doing good work.