Persons with disabilities deserve the same rights and privileges as any other person, including the opportunity to join the workforce without barriers whatsoever.
As an employer, you cannot discriminate against persons with disabilities. That is unlawful and also downright inhumane. Moreover, it can get you in trouble with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Your responsibility as an inclusive and compliant employer does not end with welcoming persons with disabilities into your pool of workers, either. You must also go out of your way to ensure workplace accessibility. That is not an entirely thankless effort too.
Committing to an accessible workplace affords you a horde of benefits. The most obvious is improved brand image and reputation.
Other advantages include employee retention, enhanced employee experience, and customer loyalty. These are enough to give your business the competitive edge it needs to succeed in whatever industry you’re in.
If you’re ready to commit to workplace accessibility, here are actionable tips you should follow.
1. Review Current Practices
Improving workplace accessibility should begin with an internal assessment.
To know how you can best enhance business approaches concerning the goal, you need to review the current practices you implement.
Look into your official company policies. Are there stipulations there that clearly outlines your efforts for workplace inclusivity? If not, adjust appropriately.
Be most mindful of your human resource practices. All members of your HR team should be free of bias or prejudice, especially against persons with disabilities. They need to conduct hiring practices that are not discriminatory.
For instance, do you have a vacancy that even the visually impaired can access? Or do you offer fair pay to persons with disabilities? These questions should be reckoned with head-on.
2. Plan For Reasonable Accommodations
The operative word here is reasonable.
You are not legally obligated to spend for workplace improvements you can’t financially afford, for example. Still, you can always try to find ways to make things better.
If you do, you’re in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has outlined legal requirements that define reasonable accommodations.
Reasonable accommodations may include:
- Adjusting how a job is typically performed
- Changes in remuneration packages
- Provision of additional sick leaves for essential treatments and other medical emergencies. This also includes having equipment that will aid persons with disabilities in performing their job.
These factors should be discussed between employer and employee upon hiring.
3. Improve Digital Accessibility
Physical barriers are not the only kind of workplace roadblock persons with disabilities face.
There’s also digital accessibility— or rather, inaccessibility.
For instance, most company websites are designed for those who can see and hear. That automatically excludes those with visual and hearing impairment. Such must be amended.
Ideally, your website presents information via different channels that allow a multisensory approach.
Site navigation should be made inclusive via additional options on top of the standard point-and-click interface. Think voice navigation or the integration of a special keyboard. Video content should have in-sync captioning too. These are just some of the strategies you can employ to achieve digital accessibility.
4. Offer Accessibility Tools
Thanks to technological innovations, persons with disabilities are now better equipped to keep up with the demands of their jobs.
As an employer, your responsibility is to provide them with tools to help them deliver what’s expected of them at the workplace.
For example, provide computers with built-in assistive technologies. Choose a PWD-friendly software, such as Microsoft 10.
Deaf employees can make use of live call transcription, closed captioning, and mono sound. Choose collaboration software that prioritizes inclusivity. Your options include Microsoft 365, which allows a variety of access points.
Your goal is to tap your employee’s full potential by giving them extra support via accessibility tools.
5. Look Into Benefits
Your HR team cannot offer a base pay to a new hire with a disability that’s lower than the usual offer you have for applicants without a disability and with the same professional background.
Base your remuneration offer on the credentials and potential of the applicant.
It will help to review the benefit packages you give to employees. Those who have disabilities might require additional privileges. For example, provide them with medical treatment leaves.
Another benefit that needs to be implemented is modifying work arrangements. Be open to a work-from-home agreement if that’s something your employee with a disability would like.
Or maybe you can change their work hours to their preferred and most convenient schedule.
6. Foster An Inclusive Culture
An inclusive culture begins with written policies, but those policies should manifest on the floor. Those that contradict the guidelines must be held accountable, regardless of their rank in the organization.
If one of your department heads can get away with microaggressions directed toward employees with disabilities, again and again, you’re not fostering a diverse and inclusive culture. You’re sending the wrong message to the rest of your employees.
There are many ways in which to champion inclusivity at the workplace. For example, when planning for a company-wide event, like a holiday party, have your employees with disabilities in mind.
From the theme to the menu, the party should not alienate anyone. All you need to pull this off is a little sensitivity and some internal research, too.
Accessibility Measures To Foster A Culture Of Inclusivity
Persons with disabilities are an underutilized segment of the labor market. They have a lot to contribute to the workforce and the economy in general.
Unfortunately, many of them are unemployed. Their talents and skills go to waste. It’s time you step up and give employment opportunities to persons with disabilities.
Place workplace accessibility on top of your priorities. Keep in mind that it goes beyond building ramps and removing physical barriers. It also covers access to knowledge and information and encompasses the entirety of workplace and employment experience.
Workplace accessibility may seem like a tall order, but it’s doable.
Make sure everyone in your organization is on the same page. After all, workplace accessibility is a team effort.
Rest assured that whatever resources you invest in it will be aptly rewarded. Plus, you get to be that brand everyone admires.