Accessibility in the workplace has never been more prominent on the agenda as we look to return to hybrid or office-based working
8.4 million working age adults in the UK identify as having a disability (some 25% of the working population). Accessibility used to be informed mainly by building regulations, but now, a much broader set of known considerations are designed for beyond the purely physical environment. Not all disabilities are visible. And we are now seeing a proactive movement towards ensuring that workspaces take both physical and mental wellbeing into account.
Accessibility is a fast-moving field and employers are increasingly ambitious in terms of what they’re looking to offer to their teams. Best practice now means a personalised workspace, delivering universal access and comfort, accessible entries, exits and ways into and around the building itself, optimising lighting for productivity and ease of working, managing noise levels and providing adaptable workstations.
Progressive employers are considering accessibility in its broadest sense, seeking to provide a space that all individuals feel engaged and at ease in terms of their working lives. The business benefits of this kind of strategic approach to the workplace are tangible, enabling employers to engage and support a wider talent pool and putting employers on a much stronger footing when it comes to encouraging employees towards collaborative, office-based working.
When workplaces are designed strategically with accessibility at the forefront, it’s possible to achieve full functionality for all employees. One important tool for delivering this is through the seamless integration of technology. Technology is playing a vital role in the accessibility revolution – providing control over the environment and allowing more personalised settings focussed on individual needs. To be truly effective, technology solutions need to be deployed using software that individuals are able to easily engage with and where tailored training is provided.
‘Accessibility Tech’ is big news, with personalised app-based software changing the future landscape of the workplace, while investment in accessibility hardware, such as touchless entry and speech recognition systems, are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our office spaces. Such features ensure broad usability and are intuitive in terms of how employees use them in practice. The right mix of strategy, design and technology empowers individuals and enables better outcomes from teams regardless of their accessibility needs.
But we are not at the end of the accessibility journey yet. Some workplaces still overlook the need to ensure their spaces are user-friendly for everyone, and vitally, that any retrofitted ‘add-ons’ have been properly integrated in harmony with the rest of the workspace. Designing a genuinely accessible workspace that proactively caters to the needs of the wider population goes further than meeting the requirements of equality regulations. Investment in accessible, strategically designed workspaces can deliver business benefits in terms of higher productivity and retention of top talent.
Image by Nguyen Minh, Unsplash