If making your workspace accessible and comfortable for all employees is important to you, it could be time to start making some changes. The ultimate goal is to create a barrier-free, inclusive work environment where employees don’t have to request special treatment. But how do you achieve this, especially with the restrictions of finances and the building itself to overcome?
Here are some useful design tips to help you get started:
Call in an accessibility expert
This is by far the easiest and best way, although perhaps not the cheapest, to get tailored recommendations for improvements that you can feasibility implement. An experienced accessibility expert will spot things you may not even have considered. Unless you’re trained or have experienced disability yourself, it can be difficult to put yourself in a disabled visitor or employee’s shoes. Enlisting the help of a specialist can be an eye-opening experience, and one that can only be beneficial for someone wanting to make their workspace more accessible.
Choose height-adjustable office furniture
This is another easy win, as there are lots of options for height-adjustable desks and chairs to choose from. Height adjustable desks can be used by anyone and adapted to suit their needs. This not only improves accessibility, it also improves ergonomics and comfort for everyone. Sit and stand desks such as this Moreno desk allow you to create a mix of different workspaces, creating a more flexible office that is ready for everything and everyone.
This is a good a place to start as any. Take a close look at how disabled workers and visitors will actually get into the building. Make sure that disabled parking spaces are wide enough and close enough to the entrance, and are kept clear for people who need them. What is the surface and lighting like around the paths leading up to the entrance? You should have at least one accessible entrance if your main door is not.
Get ramp steepness right
Where possible, you should avoid steps within a floor in your building, opting for a ramp instead if floor heights differ. All ramps should be carefully considered and correctly designed. It’s a good idea to seek professional advice when it comes to the gradient of the ramp as it needs to be safe and right for the length of the ramp.
Round tables are best for meetings
Many people believe that round tables are the best choice for meetings anyway, as all participants can see everyone else more clearly than at a long rectangular boardroom table. However, round tables are also good for improving accessibility as they allow easier lip-reading and eye contact.
Look closely at the ‘flow’ of the office
Is there enough room for everyone to navigate around the office safely and comfortably? You want to be removing pinch points, particularly those which could be difficult for wheelchair users, as much as possible. Extra-wide walkways and minimal clutter mean that everyone can use the space without obstruction.
Put powerpoints on top of desks and tables
This is so simple to implement, especially when you choose desks and boardroom tables with power modules built in, but a real nightmare for disabled employees if you neglect to do it. Eliminate the need to kneel down under the desk to plug in equipment by putting powerpoints on the surfaces of desks. This is particularly important in offices which have desk sharing or hot desks. There are other small changes just like this that are easy to achieve, such as replacing regular monitors with designs that have flexible arms so that anyone can adjust them to suit their needs.
Improve or replace doors
Where possible, doors should be replaced or modified to make them wide enough and easy for everyone to use. Automatic doors are ideal, but you can also make changes such as installing lever rather than twist handles. You can look into leaving doors open or removing internal ones altogether, but you’ll also need to balance this against the requirements of fire safety regulations.
Pay close attention to communal areas
It isn’t just in working areas that accessibility is important. Disabled visitors and employees often find that communal spaces such as toilets and break rooms throw up numerous barriers. Making communal spaces is really important, as your disabled staff members need to feel as much a part of the working community as everyone else does. Look at how you can integrate an accessible toilet within existing toilet facilities (rather than having a separate one). Another consideration is creating an open-plan kitchen and break room to prevent problems with access in the small kitchens that many workplaces tend to have.
Get the signage right
Navigation signs in public buildings and safety signs in workspaces should be clearly visible and made by an approved supplier. Appropriate symbols should be used along with Braille or raised lettering wherever possible. Lastly, make sure your signage is not placed so as to be an obstruction to any building user.
- Provide an induction loop in meeting rooms
At least one of your meeting rooms should be fitted with an induction loop, so that users can use hearing aids to more clearly hear speakers and participate in the meeting.
Create quiet areas
These spaces can be much appreciated by a number of workplace users, especially when it comes to people needing a space to rest, recuperate or just be away from others for a few minutes. It can also be a working space, somewhere quiet and reasonably private.
Consider bigger changes
One of the main barriers to making workspaces more accessible is inevitably the cost, especially when it comes to bigger changes like putting in a lift between floors. If it’s at all feasible, you should make these adjustments and consider them a worthwhile investment in your business and its employees.
Remember that these alterations aren’t simply designed to benefit disabled employees and visitors. Most of them will make the workplace more comfortable and flexible for everyone, so they can be hugely beneficial to all.