10 ways you can make your workplace accessible and inclusive to persons with disabilities

Workplace accessibility
The image shows a person on a wheelchair at his workplace.

1 in 7 persons experience disability in one form or another.

One can be born with a disability, or one can acquire a disability due to illness, accident or a man-made tragedy like a terror attack or a physical confrontation.

People get disabled during natural disasters.

Many are rendered disabled after a stroke.

In the Armed Forces and the police force people routinely get into temporary or permanent disabilities.

Even at your workplace someone can suddenly become disabled due to an illness or an accident.

Hence, disability is a reality and it is not as rare as it often seems.

If you don’t see many people with disabilities around you, it is mostly because there are numerous barriers that keep them away.

Most of the people who are kept away due to these physical barriers can be your customers and clients, your employees, your patrons, or even your caretakers. There is a big part of the world that is kept away from using your services simply because your workplace is not accessible.

There are people with disabilities with immense talent. There are also people with disabilities who have great purchasing power. There are people, who, given a conducive environment, can perform exceptionally well for your organization.

You are missing an opportunity to work with and work for a multitude of individuals that can bring with them a wealth of skills, talents and business opportunities, simply because your workplace is inaccessible.

Why there is a greater need to make your workplace accessible to people with disabilities?

Primarily, there are two reasons:

  1. It doesn’t make sense to exclude such a big part of the population simply when just a few structural changes can allow them to be a productive and contributing part of your environment.
  2. It is required by law. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (the RPWD Act), 2016 mandates equality and non-discrimination and these attributes can only manifest if people with special needs are not excluded due to structural and attitudinal barriers.

If you haven’t considered making your workplace accessible the sudden introduction of the idea may put you in a jam and the first reaction might be resistance. That’s normal.

This is why it is very important to acquaint yourself why there is a need to make your workplace accessible to persons with disabilities and how, it is not as difficult a task as it may seem in the beginning. Listed below are 10 ways you can start your journey towards making your workplace accessible for people with disabilities.

10 ways you can make your workplace accessible and inclusive to people with disabilities

  1. Begin with an Equal Opportunity Policy: An Equal Opportunity Policy will act like a guideline. It will give you a well-defined set of dos and don’ts in your HR policy, procurement, , supplier management, infrastructure management, redressal system and customer and client management procedures.
  2. Allocate responsibility for maintaining an accessible workplace: It is often difficult to implement far-reaching plans without allocating responsibility. There should be someone, or a group of people, responsible for maintaining an accessible and inclusive environment at your workplace and people should know whom to approach in case there is a problem.
  3. Sensitize and train your staff: Your staff is a big part of creating an accessible and inclusive environment at your workplace. Ultimately, it’s your staff that will be mostly interacting with people with disabilities. You may like to partner with an accessibility and inclusion consulting organization like DEOC that has horizontal as well as vertical experience delivering high-quality accessibility and inclusion training to organizations and businesses.
  4. Create a safer work environment: People with disabilities are more prone to being vulnerable in case your working environment is unsafe. If you have a retail store, keep walking floor space in the aisles free of obstacles. Instruct your staff to avoid leaving boxes and crates just about everywhere. Make sure there are no protruding objects a person with visual impairment can run into.
  5. Have accessible digital properties: Your digital properties like your website, mobile app and documents might be the first point-of-contact a person with disabilities may have with your organization or business. Make sure that your website is W3C compliant and people with disabilities can interact with your mobile app as easily as possible.
  6. Have an accessible entrance: Whether you run a restaurant, a retail store or customer service center service, is it possible for people with disabilities to even enter your place? People with wheelchairs should be able to use a safe ramp. People with visual impairments should be able to use the tactile signs to find their way in and out.
  7. Ensure easy access to your services: Providing an accessible entrance and then not making doing business with you accessible defeats the entire purpose. People with disabilities prefer to do as many things as possible, independently, so make sure that once they are at your premises, they can conduct business with you on their own, including interacting at the reception and carrying out transactions at the counter.
  8. Make amenities accessible: Amenities like washrooms and water coolers should be accessible to people with special needs because once they are at your premises, they should be able to use them just like your other customers and clients, and employees. It can make things worse for them if you allow them to enter your workplace by providing an accessible entrance and then make it extremely difficult for them to spend time there.
  9. Provide accommodations: Persons with disability may require a modified working environment to give their best. For example, if a person with visual disability  needs a screen reader or a person with hearing disability needs an interpreter for attending a training or someone who has difficulty in using hands to type may require a dictation software or someone needs certain flexibility in work timing. Making these individualized  arrangements can make your workplace sufficiently accessible to persons with disabilities.
  10. Collaborate with an disability consultant: As mentioned above, creating an inclusive workplace isn’t just a social decision, now it is also a legal decision. Hence, it is better to collaborate with an consultant that can conduct a qualified audit of your policies. Processes and infrastructure and suggest recommendations according to the standards and best practices. . A. You can contact DEOC for more details.

Concluding remarks on making your workplace accessible and inclusive to people with special needs

Creating an accessible and inclusive environment is a decision that is going to have a long-term impact at your workplace. Structural changes are important and with little planning and investment, they can be implemented without much problem. A bigger problem might be attitudinal and policy changes because they will involve bringing all your employees on board and reaching a consensus.

Most of the troubles manifest due to lack of awareness, exposure, orientation and a well-defined policy. This is where an experienced organization like DEOC can help you.

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