7 Ways Employers Should Be Creating Accessibility for Disabled Workers in 2019
The above picture is of a man in an office and in a wheelchair. The view is from behind.
7 Ways Employers Should Be Creating Accessibility for Disabled Workers
It's estimated that around 19.1% of the working population has some form of disability.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. Despite its existence for nearly two decades, a lot of workplaces are very behind when it comes to workplace accessibility.
Accessibility for disabled people should be on the top of every employer's list. Aside from facing potential fines for not having reasonable accommodations, you could be missing out on employing great talent because you aren't ADA compliant.
Curious about how you could be making your workplace more disability-friendly? Read on to learn our helpful tips.
1. Talk to Experts
What do you know about the Americans with Disabilities Act? You may think you know a lot about the act, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what being ADA compliant mean
The act's use of the words "reasonable accommodation" tends to trip some employers up. They're not sure what's considered reasonable, and what's excessive or extra.
If you're confused what makes for a reasonable accommodation, it can be worth consulting with a lawyer or an expert in workplace ADA compliance. They can give you a clear direction on the changes you should be making.
2. Make Existing Facilities Accessible
Getting around the office on your own may be easy for someone that's abled bodied. But once you put yourself into the shoes of someone that's disabled, certain areas may be too difficult to access.
Let's start in the parking lot. Do you have handicap spots available? Are there ramps that can allow people to get into the building? If so, are they easily visible or are they tough to find?
Are there important parts of the office that are only accessible by the stairs? Would someone with a disability have trouble getting to the bathroom, or the breakroom?
Once you spend some time thinking about all of the ways people have to access your building and areas of the office, you'll have a much easier time figuring out what changes you can make.
3. Train Your Staff
You're all for making your workplace more accessible and welcome the possibility of hiring more disabled employees. You may feel that way, but it doesn't mean that other people at the company do.
If you want disabled employees to be able to fully integrate seamlessly into your workplace, it's important that employees at all levels are aware of the company's commitment to having an accessible workplace.
Sensitizing training, etiquette classes, and empathy workshops can do wonders for helping able-bodied employees gain valuable insight into dealing and working with disabled coworkers.
Remember, don't focus all of your training efforts on management. It's important for every employee in the office to be fully committed.
4. Consider Flexible Working Schedules
Employees with disabilities may need more time getting work. They may be getting dropped off to work in accessibility vans or could have can't-miss appointments with doctors.
It isn't uncommon for some people with disabilities to have to miss periods of work.
Some employers find that giving disabled employees a slightly modified schedule can do wonders for their performance and productivity.
Encourage your employees to be vocal about their scheduling needs, and let them know that it's okay to ask to arrange their work schedules around their care needs.
If possible, consider giving them work from home days, or allowing them to take "flex time".
5. Open the Lines of Communication
If you had an employee that needed ADA related changes made to their schedule or workspace, how would they be able to tell you?
Remember, not all disabilities are visible. There are plenty of disabilities your employees may have that you would never notice unless you're told.
There's a lot of stigma against disabled people in the workplace. Some employees may not feel comfortable mentioning their disability to their employers.
It's your job as an employer to make sure that it's easy for employees to make their ADA needs known. Give them confidential ways to report their needs, and make sure that they feel like it's okay to be honest about their needs.
Some employers find that it's useful to submit requests via a form, others encourage people to set up face-to-face meetings with HR. Regardless of what you choose, stick to it and make your policies known to employees.
6. Start with the Workspace
One of the easiest ways to make your workplace more ADA compliant is to start off with the actual workspace. Focus on finding ways to make desks, chairs, and computers more accessible.
Find wide office chairs that provide lumbar support. Also, be sure to go with office chairs that easy to adjust for height and back/neck support.
An adjustable desk can do wonders for accessibility. Desks can be lowered or raised as needed, and could even help make all of your employees more productive.
There are a lot of different software programs available that can make using a computer much easier for people with disabilities.
Dragon is one of the most well known disability-friendly software programs available. Its speech recognition tools allow users to input data with their voice. This can be very helpful for people with limited mobility or vision problems.
7. Re-Think Current Policies
If you want to have a compliant workplace, you should take some time to review your current policies and see what may need to change.
Right now your office may have a strict no animal policy that you enforce. That might avoid the problem of employees bringing in pets, but it also makes it impossible for someone with a service animal to work for you.
If you have a drug testing policy and do routine tests throughout employment that can keep people that abuse illicit drugs from working for your company. It could also make people that take pain medication worried about being judged.
Take some time to talk to HR about the best ways to adjust policies so that people with disabilities can be comfortable at work. It may be worth tweaking some policies or even getting rid of them altogether.
Going Beyond Accessibility for Disabled People
Accessibility for disabled people is an important part of maintaining a functional and ADA compliant office.
It's important to understand that accessibility isn't all done at once. You should be making iterative updates to make sure that everyone has a comfortable work environment.
Now that you're on the way to making your office more compliant, it's time to start expanding your talent pool to include disabled employees.
Use our handy resume searching tool so you can find more employees.