This week, we have another guest post from the wonderful, Lucy Rose.
There are numerous benefits to having diversity in the workforce, from improved employee retention and productivity to improved employee safety. However, diversity in the workplace is also important as far as inclusion is concerned. This means taking into account the different needs of all workers, and making sure that everyone feels safe, acknowledged and supported, and that the ability for someone to do their job is not limited by their disability. With this in mind, making sure that your workplace is accessible and inclusive for all is paramount.
Start with the essentials
In order to reap the benefits that having a diverse team brings to a business, you’ll need to make a few changes to your workplace and procedures to make sure that it is accessible for and inclusive of everyone. However, given that making your workplace accessible to absolutely everyone can be a huge undertaking, it is sensible to start off with those accessibility requirements for which there is a legal mandate.
Focus on the most relevant
The Americans With Disabilities Act states that accommodations must be made for qualified individuals with disabilities who are both employees or applicants for employment. So if you have someone about to join your team who is visually impaired for example, it make sense to start your efforts there, so you can get the most relevant changes in place from the get go.
Accommodating the visually impaired
In this case it may be that you need to make arrangements to accommodate a guide dog or another visual aid, or even just make small changes around the office such as providing screen reader technologies, providing braille signage around the office or facilitating navigation around the office by installing differently coloured or textured floor mats. This would help the visually impaired differentiate between different parts of the office.
Consider alternative working arrangements
Being flexible with working hours or allowing some employees to work remotely is an important part of adapting to different employee needs. For example, employees that may be approaching retirement and wish to reduce their hours rather than leave altogether could benefit from this arrangement. It may also be beneficial for certain disabled employees if part of their working week could involve working remotely as opposed to going in to the office.
Cultivating an inclusive atmosphere
Accommodating employees with disabilities goes beyond making certain physical and technological adaptions in the workplace. Investing in employee education and training will help to make sure that you foster an inclusive environment and atmosphere in which all employees are aware the things that they can do to contribute towards an environment that works for everyone.
Some ideas for best practice
Some ideas include embedding practices such as reserving front seats at presentations for disabled access, tucking chairs in at the end of a meeting to create more space for disabled employees to navigate, and distributing slides before a presentation so employees have the opportunity to absorb the content beforehand. Enlarging the font will help the visually impaired, while printing on green or pink paper can help people with dyslexia to better access the information.
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