Accessibility in the workplace isn’t a nicety that only benefits those who rely on wheelchairs for mobility. It has multiple dimensions, like sight and sound. It also helps you as an employer by allowing for a more diverse and productive workforce.
You want to ensure your facility complies with the requirements set forth by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to meet your legal requirements, but you can do much more to address your staff’s needs.
Here are six ideas for a more accessible workplace that produce a considerable return on investment.
1. Choose Your Doors Wisely
If your business serves members of the public — practically speaking, nearly every organization does — the ADA holds you and your landlord jointly responsible for ensuring that disabled people can access the building. Talk to your landlord to discern what compliance measures they have taken or plan to undergo. Even if they cover costs, you still need to keep the space inside your shop accessible.
However, standard doorways don’t allow sufficient wheelchair access, and they can prove problematic for folks with other mobility aids. Imagine rolling up to work only to discover you couldn’t enter the premises. When making upgrades, consider wider entryways and barn-style doors that offer the most space.
Why not combine accessibility with security? If you opt for sufficiently wide automatic doors, you can use technology like keyless entry to admit staff members after hours while keeping wandering passersby from getting curious.
2. Incorporate More Natural Lighting
You might not think of your lighting as an accessibility feature, but it is. A dim environment creates eye strain and headaches. However, overhead fluorescents contain invisible pulsing can trigger migraines in susceptible individuals.
One solution is taking advantage of natural light whenever possible. Seek facilities with wall-to-wall windows. Skylights provide considerable illumination and can cut your electricity costs, especially if you do business in a perpetually sunny region like the desert southwest.
If you work in a warehouse-style structure that lacks outside light, opt for directional track lighting. This style lets you project illumination where you need it the most, and soft LED bulbs produce a glow that won’t cause pounding heads.
3. Soundproof Your Ceilings and Floors
The sound of high heels on a cement or tile floor can quickly turn maddeningly loud — especially if your office features high ceilings and an open warehouse design. If everyone looks up from their workstations when Barb in Accounting strolls through to hit the break room for lunch, you better believe the distraction impacts focus.
It can also create accessibility issues for people with hearing impairments. Even some people who score within normal limits on tests can have invisible loss where they can’t discern individual voices in settings like crowded restaurants —or office complexes.
As a result, they ask the person they’re chatting with to speak up. Before you know it, decibel levels in your facility climb to a deafening roar. Please take soundproofing measures like installing drop ceilings in warehouses and using adequate padding under flooring to muffle the sound.
4. Request Input on Seating Choices
Your employees’ bodies are not designed alike. Some of your staff members might flip for the new variable-height desks you requested to ease back pain. Others might find a requirement or even a suggestion to stand problematic if neurological conditions make them dizzy or arthritis plagues their knees.
The solution? Ask your staff for input when it comes to new seating choices. Let them try new models on for size. Send out a survey inquiring who would be interested in options like inflatable fitness balls or adjustable-height.
5. Install More Bathroom Facilities
You need to make your restrooms ADA-compliant, but you can go a step further when upgrading. You can also exercise sensitivity by making such facilities unisex. This change saves you money — with no need to put in two separate rooms, you can enlarge existing ones. You might not want a powder area in a strict office complex, but this amenity impresses the public if your building is open to them.
While you don’t want to turn your complex into a “throne room,” the more facilities you can provide, the better. Employees with inflammatory bowel conditions often experience
considerable stress, planning their days around having open restrooms available. They may call in sick less frequently if they know they can find a place to go during a flare.
6. Add Natural Supports Everywhere
Natural supports refer to inclusion and assistance methods that exist in every workplace and that any employee with a disability can tap into without fear of embarrassment. One familiar example is an end-of-day bell that reminds employees when to leave and catch the bus home.
Sometimes, such accommodations can take the form of other people. You might have someone from HR assist a new hire in filling out the required paperwork or a supervisor review an employee’s to-do list with them each week.
Other natural supports include things like opting for easy-to-read digital clocks instead of dial models and escalators or elevators for those who struggle with stairs.
Make Your Workplace More Accessible With These 6 Tips
Making your workplace more accessible gives you access to a wider employee pool while increasing current staff members’ productivity. Consider the six tips above when it’s time to upgrade.