With the world slowly returning to in-office work, employers have the unspoken responsibility of reviewing the current facilities and equipment inside their companies to ensure accessibility. This is needed to attain a successful shift from an accessible online workplace to a physical one.
The question is, “Are your offices designed with inclusivity in mind?” Let’s see how you can accommodate inclusivity in your workplace.
Benefits of Inclusive Design
Inclusivity in office facilities ensures that all your team members, regardless of their abilities and backgrounds, can have equal access to the workplace. Using an inclusive office design also brings benefits to the table for both the employer and the employees.
1. Employer Benefits
When your company has an inclusive environment that welcomes diversity, your recruitment and retention rate will most likely increase.
Results of a survey led by Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC) show that nearly 80 percent of workers want to work for a company that advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). If your company strives for inclusivity, there may be many potential candidates and current employees in other companies that would want to work for you.¹
Aside from this, having inclusive infrastructure can increase your company’s reputation, especially in an industry where inclusive designs are rare. The better the reputation of your business, the more opportunities and partnerships may come your way.
2. Employee Benefits
An inclusive workspace leads to positive working outcomes since it mitigates leaving employees feeling and being excluded. This can increase productivity and improve the mental state of your employees.
Other than better working outcomes, employees are also given upskilling opportunities and chances to take on responsibilities they may not be offered in non-inclusive companies. For instance, individuals with visual impairments may face challenges in a workplace that heavily relies on visual communication or inaccessible technology.
By implementing assistive technologies, such as screen readers or braille displays, and promoting inclusive communication practices, companies can empower employees with visual impairments to fully participate and contribute to the organization’s success. This not only enhances their career growth but also fosters a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equality.
List of Inclusive Infrastructure You Can Adopt in Your Company
Although a lot of inclusive equipment and infrastructures are industry-specific, there are things you can include to make your company’s offices and workspaces more welcoming to everyone.
If you’re designing the workspace, you would want it to be ADA-compliant. Along with the checklist, here are a few things you should keep in mind when planning your workplace.²
1. Access Ramps and Lifts
Climbing stairs may be second nature, especially if it’s only a few steps, but this can already be considered an obstacle for individuals with physical disabilities.
To create a more inclusive office, all facilities should be accessible to employees, customers, or those who come to your business. Aside from stairs, ramps and lifts are ideal for helping people with physical disabilities to navigate the building. You can go beyond this by installing stair lifts in your lobby stairs if you have them.
With these accommodations, you ensure that you provide access to everyone, allowing you to gain critical customers or employees who might have been turned away due to inaccessibility.
2. Rooms, Doorways, and Corridors
Conference rooms, lunchrooms, and break rooms should be designed with accessibility in mind.
It is essential to ensure that every room has accessible seating options and proper maneuvering space for easy navigation. Providing accessible features such as adjustable tables, grab bars, and clear signage can significantly enhance the inclusivity of these spaces, promoting equal participation and comfort for all employees.
Additionally, these spaces should feature wide doorways to accommodate wheelchair users and individuals with mobility aids. Wide doorframes and corridors allow smooth movement and comfort for everyone, especially for employees who use mobility aids like crutches or wheelchairs.
Generally, they also help prevent accidents, which lessens the chances of people being injured at work by allowing a spacious pathway for two or more people to use simultaneously.
Generally, power-operated and automatic doors are the most accessible option since people do not need to exert any physical effort to go through them. If there are budget constraints, a regular door can be used with a few modifications:
- The door handle should be placed at a height between 0.90 and 1.00 meters from the floor
- Instead of round knobs, lever-type handles should be installed to make it easier for employees who struggle with their grip.
- Any operational devices on doors should be easy to grasp with one hand (i.e., handles, pulls, latches, etc.)
4. Accessible Bathrooms
As part of the human rights to water and sanitation, sanitary facilities like toilets and bathrooms must always be available and accessible for everyone. They must also provide safety and security for the people using them.³ Accessible bathrooms provide access and dignity to employees and customers, fulfilling their most basic needs.
Inclusive designs, such as well-placed handrails and accommodations for diverse needs, ensure everyone can utilize these spaces comfortably. From parents with young children and senior citizens to individuals with medical conditions, inclusive bathrooms foster a sense of belonging and compassion.
5. Lowered Tables
To aid everyone in finishing their tasks, tables can be low enough to be reached by people who have height differences or are wheelchair users. You can do this on the work floor or in every room within the building, including the ones inside break rooms and conference rooms.
You can also provide adjustable tables in the work area to allow everyone to work at their preferred table height. Aside from creating a more productive and welcoming environment for all employees, it also addresses the conditions of people with physical disabilities.
6. Better Lighting
Employees with low vision require brighter lighting to help them navigate rooms and spaces at work.
Aside from using brighter light, adding more windows to the building design can also be considered. This allows more natural light into the office, which is better for employees with neurological conditions like epilepsy or migraines.
It also creates a more welcoming environment for every employee and reduces electricity costs during the day.
7. Placement of Lights and Switches
Another design aspect often overlooked is the placement of lights and switches.
If a light switch is placed too high, it will be out of reach of people who are short or individuals who do not stand. Instead, put them on the wall at a reasonable height. Also, try to avoid installing them behind counters or any possible obstacles.
On the other hand, light fixtures placed too low may cause glare for people who use wheelchairs. So, it’s best to consider placing lights and switches at reasonable heights during the design stage of the office.
8. Audio-Visual Fire Alarms
Audio-visual fire alarms should be used throughout the company building to ensure everyone’s safety. This specific type of fire alarm is the best option since it is both visible and audible, making it very helpful despite any possible disabilities some employees may have.
People with trouble hearing would still be alerted, thanks to the flashing strobe lights emitted by the alarm. On the other hand, people who are visually impaired will still hear the sound of the alarm.
This includes other visual and auditory cues such as:
- Clear signage
- Illuminated exit signs
9. Emergency Routes
Designing emergency routes in an office environment to accommodate people with disabilities requires careful consideration to ensure equal access and safety for everyone. Keep emergency routes wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users. The minimum recommended width is typically 36 inches (92 cm), but going beyond the recommendations allows for better maneuvering and passing.
According to the Cambridge firefighters, elevators shouldn’t be used during a fire outbreak.4 In this case, provide ramps or evacuation lifts to accommodate everyone’s needs. Ideally, these ramps should have appropriate slope ratios, handrails, and non-slip surfaces.
To reinforce your effort, communicating exit procedures to all employees helps ensure everyone’s on the same page.
BUILD YOUR COMPANY WITH INCLUSIVITY IN MIND
As a staffing company that promotes and champions equal employment rights and opportunities for people with disabilities, Galt Foundation is here to help you start your journey toward an inclusive workplace.
Let us help you make the right decisions to accommodate your diverse employees. Contact us today to start!
1. Caminiti, Susan. “Majority of employees want to work for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion, survey shows.” CNBC, 30 Apr. 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/30/diversity-equity-and-inclusion-are-important-to-workers-survey-shows.html
2. “2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design”, ADA, 2010. https://archive.ada.gov/regs2010/2010ADAStandards/2010ADAstandards.htm
3. Liera, Carla. “Valuing access to toilets: a basic human right”, Stockholm Environment Institute, 19 Nov. 2021, https://www.sei.org/perspectives/valuing-access-to-toilets-a-basic-human-right/
4. “Do Not Use an Elevator During a Fire” Cambridge Fire Department, 13 Mar. 2023, https://www.cambridgema.gov/cfd/News/2023/03/donotuseanelevatorduringafire.aspx