The world isn’t built for disabled people. Offices, like many places in the world, aren’t always accessible to people with disabilities. A lot of the time, it’s the little things that can be fixed in fifteen minutes; but because it’s not something that bothers most people, it doesn’t get addressed. And to make things even more difficult, some things that might make something accessible for one person might not fix the problem for someone else. So what are you to do? How can you ensure your office is accessible to the employees that work there? Below are 10 simple ways to make your office as accessible as possible for the widest range of disabilities.
Automatic Doors Wherever Possible
My heart always goes aflutter when I see that magic blue button, signaling an automatic door. It’s something so simple, yet only seems to be used on the outside of buildings. If your office has interior doors that stay closed most of the time (such as meeting rooms, break rooms, individual’s offices) that people use often, consider your employees who might not have full use of their arms. How are they going to independently utilize these spaces?
An important note for automatic door button placement: please be mindful of where you put them. I can’t tell you how many times a button was either blocked by something, too high/low (the ADA has requirements for this), or is in a bad position for one reason or another. Take into account the surrounding area and which way the door opens. Just having a button doesn’t do anything if someone can’t reach it!
This is a simple one. But if your office building has more than one floor, it should have an elevator (again, ADA has laws for this). One of the biggest issues with elevators is the doors closing too quickly and people getting their chair/scooter/walker/etc. hit. Programing the doors to stay open just a bit longer can make all the difference.
Larger Restroom Stalls With Usable Handrails And Accessible Sinks
Your restrooms should be large enough for someone with a wheelchair, scooter, walker, or other mobility device to move about with no issue. Lots of restrooms with stalls that have an accessible stall aren’t big enough. Handrails should also be compliant with the ADA’s guidelines, but checking with your employee(s) who use them to see if they need any extra handholds is always a good idea. Lastly, someone using a mobility aide should be able to use the sink.. Make sure they can reach the handles, soap, and paper towels/dryer.
Make Sure the Printer and Other Equipment is in Reach from a Sitting Position
I’m going to guess from experience: Your printers are too high. You may be able to reach it from a standing position, but what about someone who is sitting? Are trash-cans, chairs, or other things that can get in the way of mobility aids blocking your printers? To test this, similar to the door opener, sit down in front of your printer and try and reach. How far did you have to extend your arm? Can you make it closer and easier to reach?
Wide Hallways and Door Frames
There’s nothing worse than not being able to fit your wheelchair through somewhere. Tight doorways are difficult, as are narrow hallways with tight corners. If at all possible, avoid having cramped spaces for ease of mobility. This is also important for those with low vision, as they can risk bumping into things or tripping.
Braille & Large Font Signs
If there are signs in your office, they should have braille accompanying them. How are people with visual impairments going to access the information? Having a large font is also a plus, as not everyone with a visual disability is totally blind, and they might not read braille. If your office has a bulletin board or place to hang fliers and other impermanent things, have a place where people can also post this information digitally so that everyone can have access to “Brian’s fantasy football league.”
Adjustable Height Desks
Standing desks have become a fad recently, but the adjustable function of these desks can go beyond alternating between sitting and standing. Not every wheelchair and scooter is the same height, so what might work for one person might not work for the next. Additionally, if an employee gets a new mobility device (though this doesn’t happen often), the height they need can change. Rather than getting a whole new desk, one that adjusts is a good investment.
Allow Employees to Work From Home
Okay, this might not fit as well as the others, but hear me out. There may be days when your employee, for whatever reason, can’t make it into the office but is still able to work. Maybe their accessible vehicle broke down. Perhaps their chair isn’t working. Or maybe they’re having a flare-up and getting out of bed is too painful. If they are still able to work from home and get their work done, let them.
The Size of Accessible Parking
Accessible parking is something that is required by the ADA, but a lot of times accessible spots could use improvement. The biggest issue is that the stripes for the ramp to deploy isn’t wide enough. Ideally, the space for a ramp to deploy and a wheelchair/scooter to get out is at least the width of a regular parking space. Scooters have a wider turning-radius, so they may need more room.
When in Doubt, Ask!
Your employee with a disability knows what they need to be successful in their job. When in doubt, ask them what they need. It might take time to get things 100% accessible, and things may change over their tenure in your office. These are good starting points, but every disability is different and will require different accommodations. Working with your employees to make sure they can do their job will ensure they continue giving positive results in their work.
In what ways is your office accessible? In what ways can it be improved? Comment below!