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6 ways to make your workplace more accessible

In a recent study of more than 100 UK workplaces, inclusion of disabled people was voted the diversity area that required the greatest improvement within the organisation.

Numerous studies have shown businesses have as much to gain as employees from attracting more workers with disabilities. Benefits may include:

  • Improving your employer brand
  • Boosting staff morale
  • More opportunities to get workers who are the right fit for the job, reducing staff turnover
  • People with disabilities typically remain in the job longer, have lower absenteeism and good punctuality

While most companies have recognised the myriad of benefits in creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce, attitudes surrounding disability are slow to change. Despite this, an estimated seven million people of working age in the UK are disabled or have a health condition, yet only half are in employment, representing a vast pool of untapped talent (1).

With this in mind, we have put together six easy steps to help you ensure your workplace is more accessible, allowing you to diversify and widen your talent pool.

1. Recruitment

When advertising, use a font that is clear and easy-to-read, and ensure candidates are offered a variety of ways to apply (e.g. online and paper). Advertise across several platforms – consider sites such as Disability Jobsite and EmployAbility. If you sign up to the Disability Confident scheme, you can use a symbol on your adverts that shows you are actively encouraging applications from disabled people.

Blind screening and pre-employment tests, such as sample job tasks, can be useful in the initial stages.

The 2018 government guide to employing people with disabilities says employers should ask applicants if they need an adjustment to the interview process. Reasonable adjustments could include adjusting room layout or allowing extra time.

2. The physical workspace

Some adjustments are obvious, such as putting in ramps and handrails, but others are less so. For example, many offices have a riot of cables which can make navigating the floor by a wheelchair a hazard.

Thankfully, there are almost always practical solutions. For example, you could put in place portable temporary ramps in areas if a permanent ramp would pose problems, while cable management systems can tidy up the office floor. Adjustable desks and chairs are another consideration.

3. Assistive Tech

There is an increasingly sophisticated range of computer equipment, software and devices available to help people with disabilities in the workplace; think voice recognition software, screen readers and magnifiers, keyboard aides and AI tools.

Even standard systems and browsers now offer a suite of accessibility features.

For example, Microsoft’s Windows 10 Narrator describes Windows and apps, enabling users to interact without seeing a screen.  Windows 10 also features Skype Translator, which instantly transcribes voice to text and uses machine learning to get better with continuous use, and even a system that lets you use eye tracking technology to interact with your computer.

Meanwhile, the Google ChromeVox screen reader is an extension to the popular web browser for the sight impaired, enabling eyes-free navigation online

4. Employee education and training

There is plenty of expert advice and assistance available to aid the development of internal workshops and training sessions. Apart from the Access to Work programme, employers can contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) for free and unbiased information on employment law, as well as equality and diversity training carried out by experienced staff.

Other helpful sources of information and support are The Business Disability Forum, and Clear Kit, a free online tool kit for best practice in recruiting and retaining employees from a diverse range of backgrounds.

5. Flexible Working

In a survey of more than 1600 disabled adults published in February, one in five who requested flexible working hours say the adjustment was not made.

While employers are not obliged to agree with all requests, there are numerous ways to approach the issue. Flexibility could mean a later start or an earlier finish, part of the week at home and part in the office, or having more frequent, but shorter, break-times.

6. Overall focus on employee wellbeing

Companies that have a genuine emphasis on staff wellbeing which permeates from C-level down already enjoy a head-start in attracting and retaining a diverse talent pool.

However, all organisations benefit from increasing multi-level communication and honest dialogue through internal support groups and feedback sessions. Consider setting up groups that cater to different sectors of your workforce, as well as bigger groups which encourage everyone to have a say.

Also, a wider focus on mental health – for example, through access to free, confidential support services – will reinforce your organisation’s commitment to employee wellbeing.

For more information on improving your workplace accessibility, get in touch with the team here.

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1. Number of disabled people in UK: Employing Disabled People, 2018, Department for Work & Pensions. Estimate of number of disabled people in work: Disability Facts & Figures, Scope.

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