How disability friendly is your workplace?
You may not have even thought about how well the business you run or the place where you work caters for those with disabilities or those with particular needs. Unless you have a disability yourself or work with someone who does, there’s a good chance it didn’t even occur to you. I hear it all the time! Problem is… that’s not a valid excuse.
If you run your own business, you are legally required to make your environment accessible to those with disabilities. This means more than just ramps. Aside from physical accommodations, there are also cultural and logistical measures for which employers bear the responsibility to create a truly inclusive environment.
If you run your own business, take the time to think about the following and whether you’re doing enough to keep your place of business accessible. Even if you don’t run your own business, it’s important to be aware of accessibility in the places you frequent, especially if you’re passionate about equal rights! It helps to be on the lookout for ideas that could improve your favorite cafe or your workplace.
Slip and trip hazards
While lots of people with physical disabilities use wheelchairs, there are many disabled people who prefer to walk (whether that be unassisted or with a cane/walker) but do so a little more slowly and a little less steadily than their able-bodied peers. People with rheumatoid arthritis or cerebral palsy are just two examples. These people are especially vulnerable to a trip, slip and fall injury.
Of course, many of the same measures will also be beneficial for abled people. Loose cables should be taped down. Trip hazards should be clearly marked and a sign should be put out whenever floors are wet after cleaning. In crowded offices, make sure employees keep their workspaces tidy. Remind them to keep their belongings on or under their desk and chairs pushed in.
Many owners install elevators in their buildings to make the premises more accessible for disabled people. That, and they make it easier for everyone to move around the building. However, few take the necessary steps to make sure that these elevators are accessible to disabled people, especially wheelchair users.
There are some factors which can make an elevator inaccessible. Elevators need to be unobstructed at all times. Wheelchair users also need room to maneuver themselves around the space. Many wheelchairs are large and need quite a bit of room to be able to turn around. They also need to have enough time to get into the lift space before the doors close. Buttons need to be low enough that those in shorter chairs and have limited reach will be able to use them. Fun fact, I’m almost never able to reach elevator buttons, and therefore can’t take one alone. If you’ve yet to have an elevator installed in your place of business, please make sure that whoever does the installation does so with wheelchair users’ requirements in mind.
An open forum
It’s important to note that this post only covers a tiny portion of what a business needs to do to truly be accessible. You also have to remember that disability is experienced differently by everyone, so each disabled employee might need different accommodations.
Time for the good news! One of the best ways to make a workplace disability inclusive doesn’t involve expensive renovations or operational overhauls. It’s simply a case of keeping your door open. Show your employees that you are open-minded and amenable to their suggestions. Acknowledge that they can make your place of business fairer and safer. Simply giving them an open forum to express their views is one of the most empowering things that you can do. Just be sure to follow up on any promises you make and treat employee suggestions with the seriousness that they deserve. Accessibility isn’t a favor or a bonus – it’s a basic human right.
*This is a collaborative post and may contain affiliate links*