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Feature image Accessibility in the Workplace

Don’t Alienate Employees

We all know that HR has books upon books of rules regarding accessibility and reasonable accommodations that need to be provided in order to help people do their best. But we also know that some people see these modifications as special treatment or even as barriers to success. I’ll admit that throughout the years and the offices I’ve worked in, some coworkers just did not seem to understand (or care) that bright overhead lights make it impossible for me to see my computer screen. I’ll also admit that I’m not sure I would understand how hard it is to see through my eyes unless I was living it.

Still, if an employee needs accommodations to do their job, help them. The courage that it takes most people to speak up and say they need help is pretty intense. First, they need to admit to themselves that the issue is creating barriers to their success. Then, they need to get up the motivation to talk about it and provide actionable requests for help. After all of that, they have to hope that the accommodations they requested actually help. This can be a draining process that is only made more difficult when other people are questioning whether they need assistance or not (which has also happened to me, but that’s another story).

Create a Helpful Work Environment

While giving employees and coworkers the ability to do their best work seems logical, sometimes offices ignore easy solutions. People are often forced to struggle through the workday while hiding or suppressing a disability because they know they will not be met with the help they need. This sounds depressing, but a lot of the time it isn’t because the office won’t help, it is just because they don’t know-how. Disability in the workplace can be a taboo topic that has people filling out forms and attending seminars in order to deal with it the “right way.” While these programs are often intended to help, they can also create a perception that disabilities need to be kept quiet.

Make Accessibility Standard

As a disabled employee, I understand that every office can’t be modified to accommodate the way I see. If it could I would be working in a big open room with soft lighting and no surprise chairs or plants in the way. No one would ever turn on a lamp unexpectedly, and there would be the option for me to close my eyes when they started getting weak and tired. In today’s work world pretty much none of that comes standard. I understand and respect that.

But, there are some really helpful measures you can take to ensure your employees feel valued and helped no matter what they need. Making sure they have access to the tools and accommodations they need is especially important (like the UserWay digital accessibility widget, hint, hint!). This isn’t tough, it just takes care and consideration. Providing access to text-to-speech software, earphones that users can plug in if they’re hearing impaired, and even just the basic ability to get around the office by making a clear path are simple steps to get started. You have to remember that a little effort goes a long way, so try and give your employees the tools they need to get their work done well.

How do you incorporate accessibility into your workplace? Are there any tips you would recommend to other office managers that have helped employees in the past? Share your thoughts on workplace accessibility in the comments below!