According to a recent release by Conference Board, making facilities and workspaces more accessible would allow more people with disabilities to work. Not only that, many who are already employed would be able to work more.
In fact, it stated: “If workplaces were more accessible, about 552,000 individuals with a physical disability that impairs their mobility, vision, or hearing would be able to work or work more hours per week, adding 1.3% to the total annual Canadian work effort by 2030.”
It also highlighted how physical accessibility integrates physical accommodations such as ergonomic workstations and accessible building features, as well as a sense of inclusion that lets those with disabilities interact easily with co-workers, access all the same facilities, and perform the same functions.
On that note, here are some recommendations by Conference Board on what workplaces can adopt to be more accessible to people with disabilities.
While improving accessibility is often thought of as making structural changes to bricks and mortar; the report stated that, in practice, accessibility encompasses more than renovations. It remarked: “Accessibility is about good planning and design to create an environment that considers human diversity and inclusion. This user-focused approach to planning and design can be a powerful way to create a truly accessible environment.”
With that, universal design encompasses four main aspects:
- Adopting a human-centred approach Universal design considers the full range of diverse characteristics among all users who will interact and engage in the space.
- Going beyond safety to accessibility While building codes provide basic safety standards, most do not account for the full range of needs that arise from differences in human abilities and characteristics. Universal design goes beyond safety to consider design elements that will enable full participation based on a spectrum of human abilities and needs.
- Maximising user experience Universal design is not a list of standard specifications. Rather, it is an approach to design that maximises the experiences of all users. Any design features that enhance access or use by some people should not hinder or diminish the user experience for others.
- Striving for inclusion Universal design strives to make buildings, facilities, and tools more socially inclusive and user-friendly.
In addition to physical features or design, attitudes and mindsets within the workplace have a critical impact on creating accessible environments. The report stated: “Of equal importance as physical features and design are the attitudes and mindset within the workplace, which have a critical impact on creating accessible environments.”
“This is the difference between technically accessible work environments and ones that are truly inclusive. At the firm level, inclusive businesses foster environments where employers and co-workers understand, appreciate, and leverage differences,” it concluded.
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