Is your office an accessible workplace? The importance of putting people first
How does making an office building an accessible workplace for people of all abilities and circumstances?
What goes into making an environment accessible and open and functional for all people?
Accessibility is becoming a bigger focus in the workplace as return to office and office design is rising to the top of priority lists of organizational across all sectors and industries.
An accessible workplace is going to be outfitted with tools and resources that can assist those with physical and mental disabilities. Additionally, having inclusive communication practices, assistive technologies, and focusing on being value-driven in interactions with employees will ensure a supportive environment.
Access for the Unseen
When talking about making sure that the office is an accessible workplace, it’s important to note that not all disabilities are going to be visible. This encompasses a range of different abilities and conditions that should be accounted for in the workplace. Hearing, sight, learning disabilities, through to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or adhd.
Making sure that the workplace has the resources and tools available to support a wide range of unseen disabilities on top of the space that supports those with physical disabilities is crucial. All people deserve to work in an environment where they know they can succeed regardless of their personal circumstances.
Things like special keyboards, software for reading and writing, and mobile applications are going to make a world of difference for those who have unseen disabilities that may influence how they work. Companies such as Microsoft have been going above and beyond for years to ensure that these employees are supported, offering tools on their website to help form an accessible workplace.
Best Practices for Accessibility
Accessibility matters across businesses of all shapes and sizes. In Ontario, if your business has 50 or more employees you are required to complete and maintain the 6 standards of an accessible workplace. These cover hiring, workplace information, accommodation, and return to work processes.
Having in place a mandated foundation like this guarantees that employees won’t fall through the cracks and be disadvantaged at work. Internal communications, workplace information, training, and accommodations for things like assessment gives all employees access to the same level of treatment and opportunity.
Accessibility isn’t just giving everyone the opportunity to do the same thing but giving them the tools to be able to accomplish a task as well as someone else. Communications are one example of this, text-reading software for those who may have visual disabilities is going to allow an individual to receive communications from email to meeting minutes.
Many organizations turn to accessibility software and technology to ensure that a greater demand for accessible communications is answered. From the White House using sign language interpreters to diction and translation technology accessible communications are becoming a non-negotiable across industries.
More accessible communications mean more people outside the organization can participate in what is being offered as well. Websites featuring accessible tools for career opportunities, or their content shows they are open to both hiring and including people of all abilities in their business. Infrastructure is key in building an accessible workplace.
Are you Using Accessible Technology?
Technology makes our lives easier, work more efficient, and gives us the opportunity to elevate the employee experience in the workplace every day. For those who use it, accessible technology is a game-changing tool. Tasks that may have previously been impeded by lack of accessibility become just like any other daily activity.
Assistive tech must be intentional and integrated across the board, however. There is no halfway point or “good enough”. Guaranteeing that all content is accessible with assistive technologies as well as that the technology is up to date is an ongoing process to maintain a certain level of accessibility for employees.
Making technology accessible for those who may have previously not had access to it could be a step to revolutionizing parts of society. Innovators making technology for blind people so they have access to things like games and computers is a huge step in the right direction and could see massive integrations in the workplace.
In other areas, cloud computing uses for students in classrooms can be integrated in similar ways in the office. Giving certain students tailored experiences like gamification that best suits how they learn, and progress can be applied in the office to someone with a disability.
The point is accessible technology being a core part of the workplace should be non-negotiable. Giving employees the tools they need to succeed shows not only investment in their success but in their well-being. Investing in employees and giving everybody the same level of opportunity demonstrates that values matter when building an accessible workplace.
Value-based Employee Experience
The trend of sacrificing employee experience, values, and the overall happiness of employees is long gone. Businesses and organizations are investing in their employees and their experience while making sure value-based decision making is a core part of their operations.
Every business or organization has a why, without it, they probably wouldn’t exist. Sometimes values and the newly emerging corporate social responsibility are seen as counterintuitive to things like the ever-looming bottom line. But the reality is that having a progressive and value-focused business is not only possible but pays off in the long term.
Investing in resources that support employee growth is not only going to build an accessible workplace but show that regardless of physical or mental abilities they are a valued part of the team. Both consumers and employees are taking notice of who is truly investing in areas of corporate social responsibility and cares for their people and consumers. Companies are no longer faceless entities on a building, social media ensures that everything is transparent, and accountability is at an all-time high.
It’s not a secret that happy employees that feel like they’re a part of something bigger are going to perform better. Things like leadership and encouraging authentic connections in the office combined with accessible communications are going to strengthen morale and a sense of community across all members of the business.
Similarly, making things like mental health benefits and programs available for all employees should they need them not only shows that their immediate well-being matters but the long-term health and growth as a human being. Irrespective of if they are a high-performing salesperson or a software engineer, mental health and making the employee experience based on caring for people goes a long way for longevity, talent retention, and the growth of the company.
An accessible workplace invests in people and supports those with disabilities, giving them the tools they need to take advantage of opportunities and contribute to the success of their organization. Demonstrating commitment to the people who make the business run but also to consumers that a product or service is for everybody.