Making the Office Accessible for Employees With Disabilities

a woman in a wheelchair working in the office

In recent years, there has been a shift in how businesses view and accommodate employees with disabilities. Where once employees with disabilities were seen as unable to contribute or as liabilities, they are now being recognized as an untapped source of talent and productivity. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for people with disabilities was 63.7% in 2021. This change in attitude is due in part to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was passed in 1990 and prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, education, transportation, and healthcare.

While the ADA has made tremendous progress in leveling the playing field for employees with disabilities, more can be done to make workplaces more accessible. Here are some tips for making your office more accessible to employees with disabilities:

Review your office layout.

Is your office laid out in a way that is conducive to employees with mobility impairments? If not, consider making some changes. For example, you could create wider paths between furniture and walls so that employees who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices can move around more easily. You could also move essential items like printers and copiers to locations that are easier for employees with disabilities to reach.

These are just a few ideas; the best way to determine what changes need to be made is to ask employees with disabilities for their input. For instance, you could send out a survey or hold focus groups.

Regardless of how you collect feedback, it’s important to act on it. Making even small changes can greatly impact employees with disabilities and make them feel more included in the workplace.

Invest in ergonomic furniture and equipment.

Employees with injuries or chronic conditions that cause pain often find relief using ergonomic furniture and equipment. These are designed to minimize strain on the body and help prevent injuries. Ergonomic equipment includes items like computer monitors that can be adjusted to the user’s height and keyboards with built-in wrist rest.

In addition, you should ensure that all of your office’s furniture, from chairs to desks to couches, is comfortable and supportive. This is especially important for employees who spend long hours sitting at a desk.

If you’re unsure what furniture and equipment would be best for your office, you can consult an ergonomics expert. They will be able to assess your office and make recommendations based on your specific needs.

a black ergonomic office chair

Make sure your IT infrastructure is up to date.

Technology has come a long way in recent years, and many assistive technologies are available to help employees with disabilities perform their jobs more effectively. For example, screen-reading software can convert text into audio so that employees who are blind or have low vision can access information more easily.

Speech-recognition software can also be used to directly dictate emails and other documents into a computer so that employees who have difficulty typing can get their work done more efficiently. In fact, there is now intuitive software for hard-of-hearing individuals that can make it easier for them to participate in conference calls and other meetings.

If your office’s IT infrastructure is outdated, it’s time to make some upgrades. Not only will this help employees with disabilities, but it will also improve the efficiency of your entire office.

Implement flexible work policies.

Many businesses are now offering flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting and flex time in order to accommodate employees with disabilities. Telecommuting allows employees who have difficulty traveling to work remotely from home or another location of their choice.

Flex time allows employees to adjust their start and end times to better manage their disability-related needs, such as doctor’s appointments or therapies.

If you don’t already have flexible work policies in place, now is the time to implement them. Not only will this make your office more accessible for employees with disabilities, but it will also improve morale and productivity.

Educate your staff about interacting with employees with disabilities.

It’s important that all staff members know how to interact respectfully with colleagues with disabilities. Employees with disabilities should feel comfortable discussing their needs without fear of judgment or discrimination.

Providing training on interacting with colleagues who have disabilities can help create a more welcoming and supportive environment for everyone in the office. For example, your staff can learn about the different types of disabilities and how to best communicate with individuals who have them.

In addition, it’s important to educate your staff about the various accommodations that are available to employees with disabilities. This way, they can be prepared to offer assistance when needed.

Making small changes in your workplace can go a long way toward making it more accessible for employees with disabilities. By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to improving recruitment and retention rates at your company. After all, when everyone feels welcome and included, everybody wins!

About the Author

Scroll to Top