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Ensuring a workplace is accessible to people with disabilities is essential for promoting a happy, healthy and productive environment.
We know inclusion has a positive effect on wellbeing and productivity. A report by management consulting company Accenture concluded that companies in the United States that excel at inclusion had, on average, 28% higher revenue, 30% higher economic profit margins, and double the net income compared to other companies.
There is a legal imperative to inclusion, too. In the United Kingdom, the Disability Equality Duty 2006 mandates equality of opportunity for disabled people, while the Equality Act 2010 explicitly protects disabled people (among other groups) from discrimination, harassment and victimisation in employment.
There are around 7.6 million people of working age with disabilities in Britain, of whom more than 50% are employed (UK Parliament). It is evidently important for firms to create working environments that are accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities to ensure they are treated as equal members of the workforce.
Sometimes, creating an accessible workplace only requires minor adjustments. For instance, introducing desks that can be lowered and raised to accommodate people in wheelchairs and ensuring meeting rooms are arranged so that disabled people can easily navigate the space. There should also be adequate toilet facilities, accessible lifts—in short, anything that ensures disabled employees are not ‘othered’ when compared to their able-bodied colleagues.
The focus on wheelchair users too often leaves people with other disabilities, such as blind and partially sighted employees, neglected—but their unique needs do not require expensive solutions.
In an office, simply adopting easy-to-use assistive technologies such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, colour and brightness adjustments, and images with alt-text or descriptions is an enormous quality-of-life upgrade. Meanwhile, physical improvements including braille signage and textured flooring can help them navigate a building.
If you’re unaware of how your office or workplace hinders disabled employees, simply ask their advice. An employee in a wheelchair is best-placed to explain how seemingly innocuous things can be a hindrance, such as heavy doors, uneven floors, tight corners and so on.
A key element of inclusion is training and education. Significant stigma still exists around disabilities, so it’s incumbent on firms to ensure accessibility becomes part of the culture of a business, rather than a hindrance. Too often, disabled employees are seen as inferior or disadvantaged in some way, so creating an accessible workplace can reduce prejudice by creating a more ‘equal’ workplace experience.
Business leaders should therefore:
These are simple and workable steps that make a huge difference—to continue your education and discover more wellbeing solutions from the world’s leading suppliers, get your free ticket to Workplace Wellbeing Show 2020.