5 Things You Can do to Make Your Office More Accessible & Inclusive
21% of working age adults in the UK have a disability. This means that the chances are that you have someone with a disability working in your organisation. But what can you do to make your office more accessible and inclusive for everyone?
1. Create Private Spaces
An often overlooked area in improving office accessibility is the provision of private spaces. These are great for those with a number of different disabilities. Those with limb differences who wear prosthetics may appreciate having a space where they can take breaks from wearing. There are a number of other mental and physical disabilities where people will appreciate having a private space where they can self regulate, or take breaks.
These kinds of spaces help make your office more inclusive for a number of different disadvantaged groups. For example a private space could be used by people who are breastfeeding, those who use chest binders for gender dysphoria, those undertaking medical procedures such as GRT, HRT, or IVF and people of faith who need space to pray.
2. Have a Lower Stress Area
This is particularly important for those who work in open plan offices. Having space away from music and conversations as well as visual stimulation can be really important for some neurodivergent people. Blind people may also appreciate having a space away from noises which they may find particularly distracting or confusing.
Even those without official diagnoses can struggle to work effectively in busy open-plan offices. For this reason thinking about where you can create calmer spaces can be really important. You may also consider helping your employees with noise cancelling headphones as these can be expensive.
3. Assess Your Accessible Toilets
Although all workplaces in the UK are legally obligated to have accessible toilets, it’s worth thinking about whether the toilets you have are accessible and inclusive for all your people. For example, it might be useful to include a sharps bin, so that those who need to are able to safely dispose of used needles rather than having to bring them with them.
It’s also worth remembering that accessible toilets aren’t accessible to everyone. The changing places campaign has lots more information. One thing we encourage everyone to do is to speak openly with your staff and with those you’re recruiting to see what their individual needs are. Ideally this would be done anonymously as people may, understandably, not be too keen to share their toileting needs with their employer.
4. Include Social Areas in Your Plans
Work-life balance is important for everyone - so make sure you think about social time, too. Many modern workplaces now have staff or break rooms, where people are encouraged to spend time while not working. Ensuring these spaces are safe and inclusive for everyone is vital. Those with mobility aids such as wheelchairs or crutches need to be able to safely access all areas and even make themselves a cup of tea.
One extra thing to think about is keeping fridges hygienic and safe. We’ve all been in workplaces where fridges are cluttered with out of date foods and stuffed to breaking point. However, this may make them less safe for those who need to store vital medicines. It might be worth considering a dedicated fridge for accessibility, or have clear policies around the use of the fridge.
5. Prioritise Training & Education
Another way you can make your spaces more accessible is by training your team. Helping everyone in your organisation to understand how they can be part of making the office more accessible to others, and spotting potential hazards, problems or issues, will mean that you’ve got more people to support your team.
Ensuring that any first aid responders, fire marshals, and even mental-health first aiders are fully trained in a variety of mental and physical differences will help make your office space safer for everyone.
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