Home Business Insights & Advice Is your business doing enough to make its workplace accessible?

Is your business doing enough to make its workplace accessible?

by Sponsored Content
3rd Sep 20 1:37 pm

Statistics released by YouGov show that only 27% of offices have access for disabled people, leaving around 1.2m wheelchair users struggling to find work in an accessible environment. And of course, wheelchair access is just one of the many ways workplaces need to accommodate for the disabled. Yet the study also found that 30% of 18 to 24-year olds generally think that their workplace doesn’t cater for people with varying physical abilities.

From installing accessible toilets and using assistive electronic devices, to employing support workers and implementing more inclusive policies, there are many ways to remove barriers for disabled people which UK businesses simply don’t seem to be doing. As stated by Chris Birchall, strategist at workspace design specialist company Penketh Group, which ran the study with YouGov: “The results from our survey are deeply concerning. They shed more light on the inequality crisis that is apparent in the UK workplace today, especially for people with physical disabilities.”

Is your own business part of the issue? We look at what the law on accessibility actually is and how to meet the requirements.

The benefits of creating an inclusive work environment

Catering to people with disabilities will not only benefit those individuals themselves, but help you foster an inclusive working environment, which can have many advantages for your business. Studies have shown that inclusive workplaces are twice as likely to meet or exceed their financial targets, three times more likely to perform highly, and six times more likely to be innovative and agile. As noted by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, his company’s inclusive workplace has “generated better strategy, better risk management, better debates, [and] better outcomes.”

One surefire way of creating an inclusive work environment is by improving awareness among staff, and giving them the skills they need to be more mindful of their colleagues. Giving your team bespoke training on the subject will open their eyes to issues they may not have otherwise considered, as those without disabilities are often unaware of the needs and support disabled people require. This will ensure that they are not learning about these issues on the fly. Take MTD Training’s disability awareness course, for instance, which offers advice on aspects such as improving communication and accessibility for those with disabilities.

The law on accessible workplaces

The main legislation around accessible workplaces is the Equality Act 2010. This stipulates that businesses have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to ensure that disabled people receive the same services, as far as this is possible, as someone who’s not disabled. Failure to do so can be classed as discrimination, which could land your company in hot water. What’s reasonable for your particular business depends on its exact situation, as well as more specific factors such as:

  • The disability in question
  • How feasible the changes will be to make
  • If the change would help staff overcome the disadvantage
  • The size of your business
  • The availability of money and resources
  • The cost of making the adjustments
  • If any changes have already been made

How to meet the requirements of the Equality Act

There are three main ways business like yours can meet the legal requirements regarding accessible workplaces:

1. Change the way things are done

Some companies have certain ways of doing things — whether that’s a formal or informal policy, a rule or a practice, or even a one-off decision — which can make it more difficult for disabled staff to access or do something. For instance, some companies may ordinarily only employ people on a full-time basis, but make a reasonable adjustment to hire a disabled person part-time, if their impairment means that long working hours causes them severe fatigue.

2. Change a physical feature

The crux of the widespread issue outlined in the YouGov study, the second main way of catering to disabled people involves altering a building’s physical features to make it easier for them to access or use it. Some examples of physical features that may be possible to change include:

  • Steps and stairs
  • Entrances and exits
  • Passageways and paths
  • Internal and external doors
  • Toilets
  • Signs
  • Lighting and ventilation
  • The size of the premises

The type of adjustments which could be made include removing, changing, or providing a means to avoid the physical feature when possible. Example of reasonable adjustments include:

  • Providing ramps and stairway lifts
  • Installing automatic doors
  • Widening doorways
  • Providing more lighting and clearer signs

3. Provide extra aids or services

You may also need to provide particular aids, equipment, or additional services entirely, to help disabled staff access or do something. Things to consider include:

  • Computer software for a blind person
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Visual fire alarms
  • A portable induction loop for those with hearing aids
  • A support worker for somebody with autism

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