Today, businesses increasingly recognize that accessibility should be part of any workplace. Accessibility includes ensuring everyone, regardless of ability or disability, can access and use the resources, products, and services a business provides. Developing accessibility in the workplace helps businesses to create an inclusive environment for all employees and customers.
But how can businesses create an accessible workplace? This article will discuss steps businesses can take to develop accessibility in the workplace. We will also look at the benefits of creating an accessible workplace and highlight why it’s important to ensure everyone can access and use the company’s resources, products, and services.
What is an accessible workplace?
An accessible workplace is a work environment that provides equitable access to resources and services regardless of an individual’s physical or cognitive abilities. This includes making sure employees with disabilities can use the same tools as those without, such as computers, phones, and other digital devices. In addition, businesses should make sure their websites are accessible and usable by people with disabilities.
Creating an accessible workplace
There are several steps businesses can take to create an accessible workplace.
The first and most important step is to develop policies that ensure access for all employees and customers. These should include policies on hiring, onboarding, training, workplace safety, and communications within the organization. Policies should also be in place to make sure any new hires or changes to resources are accessible.
A good policy should be specific and provide guidelines for what is expected from employees and customers. It should also ensure any changes or updates to resources are accessible. Additionally, businesses should review their policies regularly to make sure they are up-to-date and in line with current laws and regulations.
Provide assistive technology
Businesses should also look into providing assistive technology for employees and customers who need it. This includes anything from wheelchairs and ramps to voice-activated devices and software. Having this technology available allows people with disabilities to access the workplace, as well as use resources more easily. It also helps create an inclusive environment for everyone in the workplace. Some of the assistive technology available include:
- Wheelchairs and ramps for people with mobility issues.
- Voice-activated devices for those with hearing impairments.
- Magnifying software: for people with vision impairments.
- Speech recognition software for those who are unable to communicate verbally.
- Screen readers and software
- Visual aids such as signs, symbols, and Braille.
Businesses need to ensure everyone has equitable access to all services and resources. From making it easier for your accounting staff with a disability to use a billing statement template to ensuring those with cognitive impairments can access the same resources as their peers, developing an accessible workplace is essential for any business.
One of the most important things businesses can do to ensure accessibility is to train employees on how to create an accessible workplace. This includes teaching them about the importance of accessibility, as well as providing specific training on how to use any tools or resources that may be needed in order for everyone to access them. Training is also important for any customers or visitors to the workplace. Employees should be familiar with how to provide assistance and services to people with disabilities in order to ensure they have an equal experience.
Change physical features in the workplace
You may have the most comprehensive policies and training in place, but if the physical features of the workplace are not accessible, this can hinder the ability for everyone to use resources. Businesses should assess their physical environment and make any necessary changes or accommodations to ensure people with disabilities can access all areas.
For example, if there are stairs leading to certain parts of the building, a ramp or elevator should be installed to ensure people with mobility issues can access these areas. Additionally, any changes to furniture or equipment should be reviewed to ensure they are accessible. Other features, such as visual aids, signage, and other forms of communication, should be accessible for people with a range of disabilities.
Provide special equipment
Sit-stand desks, height-adjustable tables, and other ergonomic equipment can make it easier for employees with disabilities to work. Additionally, businesses should consider any special equipment that an employee may need in order to complete their job effectively.
For example, a person who is unable to use a keyboard or mouse due to a physical disability could benefit from voice recognition software that would enable them to use a computer. By providing the right equipment, businesses can create an inclusive environment where everyone has access to the same opportunities regardless of ability or disability.
Modify the reception desk
Your reception is the first point of contact for customers and new employees. You should make sure the reception desk is accessible to all, including those in wheelchairs or with other disabilities. Make sure there is enough space for a wheelchair user to approach the front counter without having to go around it.
Consider also providing ramps, lowering desks if necessary, and adjusting chairs so people can reach comfortably. These small changes make a world of difference to people with disabilities and allow them to feel welcome in the workplace. They also create an inclusive environment that shows everyone they are valued.
Offer flexible schedules
Flexible schedules can help accommodate employees with disabilities, including those who need to take more time off work to attend medical appointments or manage their condition. Businesses should consider offering flexible working hours, part-time positions, job sharing, and telecommuting options. By providing employees with a flexible schedule, businesses can create an equitable work environment that allows all employees to have the same opportunities regardless of their ability or disability.
Does your website comply with accessibility standards?
It’s important to ensure that your website is designed in such a way that it’s accessible to people with disabilities. This includes conforming to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which outlines how websites should be built and structured in order for everyone to use them effectively. Below are some of the changes businesses should make to ensure their websites are accessible:
Provide alternate text for images
According to WCAG 2.0, all images should have alternate text that describes what’s in the image. This helps screen readers for the visually impaired to understand what is on the page. It also ensures that search engine crawlers can accurately index the page, helping it to appear in relevant searches.
Make links and menus accessible
Links should be clearly labeled and easy to understand. Additionally, menus should be coded correctly so that those using assistive technologies for navigation can access them easily. By ensuring that links and menus are accessible, businesses can create a website that is easy for everyone to use.
Create high-contrast color palettes
The contrast between the background and text colors should be at least a 4:5:1 ratio (for normal-sized text) or 3:1 (for large text). This will help ensure that people with vision impairments can read the content on your website.
Color is an important design element, but it must be used carefully in order for everyone to be able to access the information. You should also make sure that the colors convey meaning correctly. For example, color should not be used as the only way to convey important information on a page.
Provide captions and descriptions for video content
Videos can often be difficult to understand without captions or descriptions. Therefore, it’s important to provide these for videos that appear on your website. This will ensure that everyone can access and understand the content in the video, regardless of their ability.
Provide keyboard accessibility
Users should be able to navigate your website using only a keyboard, even if they are not using a mouse or trackpad. By ensuring that all interactive elements (such as menus, buttons, and links) can be accessed by keyboard, businesses make their website accessible to those who cannot use a mouse or trackpad.
Choose a CMS that supports accessibility
When choosing a content management system (CMS) for your business, ensure that it is compatible with WCAG 2.0 and supports accessibility features such as alternate text for images and keyboard navigation. This will ensure that your website is accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities. One of the best Content Management Systems when it comes to accessibility is WordPress. Not only does it include a range of built-in features that make websites more accessible, but many plugins are also available to help businesses create an even more accessible website.
Use tables for tabular data, not for layout
Tables can be difficult for those using a screen reader to understand, as the data may not be presented in a logical order. Therefore, it’s important to only use tables when providing tabular data (such as price lists or product descriptions). Use CSS instead for layout purposes (such as text wrapping around an image).
Ensure everything can be accessed using the keyboard only
When designing your website, make sure that all interactive elements can be accessed using only the keyboard. This includes links, menus, buttons, and form fields. Doing so ensures that those who cannot use a mouse or trackpad can still easily access your website.
Use ARIA roles and landmarks where necessary
ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) roles and landmarks provide information about a page to those using assistive technologies. They are especially important for navigation menus, as they help users understand how the different sections of a website are related to each other. Make sure to use them on your website whenever necessary.
Provide easily-understandable error messages
It’s important to provide clear and understandable error messages when a form submission fails. This will make it easier for users to understand why the submission failed and what they need to do to correct any errors.
Benefits of developing an accessible workplace
There are many benefits to developing an accessible workplace. They include:
Comply with laws
Ensuring your workplace is accessible to those with disabilities helps you meet the requirements of various laws and regulations and demonstrates a commitment to inclusion.
Increase employee satisfaction
By providing an inclusive work environment that caters to everyone’s needs, you will likely increase employee satisfaction.
Improve customer experience
Making your workplace accessible will help you create an environment where all customers feel welcome and can access your services.
Improve your reputation
Having an accessible work environment can also help improve your business’s reputation, as it shows that you care about the needs of everyone who visits or works with your business. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your workplace is accessible and inclusive for everyone. With the right tools and strategies in place, you can create a better environment for everyone who visits or works with your business.
YouTube: Creating Inclusive Workplaces for All | Catarina Rivera | TEDxRolandPark
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Hay Dmitriy.This guest article has been submitted by Jagrit Arora. While we appreciate guest contributions, it's important to note that the views expressed by the author are not necessarily reflective of those held by TechAcute.