How to make your workspace more accessible

How to make your workspace more accessible

How to make your workspace more accessible

Outside of the home, you probably spend most of your time at work. Our offices play a large part in our daily routines. And though it seems strange to think about, they really are a second home of sorts. These spaces should feel comfortable and productive … for everyone.

You may be thinking that creating accessible office environments isn’t up to individual employees. It’s true that some accessibility requirements – wheelchair access, appropriate signage and displays, accessible floor layouts – are beyond our control, but ensuring accessible workspaces is a continuous endeavor. It takes effort across many levels to improve our workspaces and make them safe and comfortable for all employees.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your office space is more accessible.

Learn more about accessibility

The first step to making your office more accessible is to learn about accessibility. Afterall, you can’t help to solve a problem if you don’t understand what the problem is.

Take the steps to learn what makes a space more accessible. Brush up on standards and requirements. Understand what your office does right and examine what could be improved.

A simple google search will serve up plenty of information about best practice; however, is the authority in all matters of accessibility in the workplace.

Don’t forget the value of first-person experience. Strike up a conversation with a co-worker, friend or family member with a disability. Ask them about accessibility in the workplace, and how you can help create or advocate for more inclusive spaces.

Remove barriers

Removing physical barriers has a huge impact on accessibility. It also happens to be one of the easiest steps you can take.

Think clear doorways and corridors. Minimal clutter and furniture in the office lobby or kitchen. Even tidy shelving without books, binders or supplies protruding into walkways helps to make spaces easier to navigate.

Taking steps to ensure all office spaces are clean and free from obstacles helps those with movement or vision disabilities get around the office more easily.

Create low stimulation spaces

The office environment is stimulating. At the best of times, this buzz can encourage productivity. At the worst of times, it can all be too much. Noise, machines, people, lighting – all combined it can cause overstimulation. For example, some people with autism have sensory sensitivity and can find it very hard to focus in noisy environments.   

Low stimulation areas are quiet, calm spaces where employees can take a beat from the hustle and bustle. Sometimes these environmental factors are out of our control, so it’s best to focus on what you can do.

Be mindful of your noise level. If you’re able, turn down the lights or use lamps in your office. And be an advocate. Speak to your supervisors about different ways to create low stimulation areas for all employees. This can include:

  • allowing frequent breaks
  • encouraging employees to get away from their desks during lunch time
  • providing or encouraging employees to use noise cancelling headphones.

Be proactive about accessibility

Last but not least, you can help improve your office environment by being proactive about accessibility. This includes understanding that creating accessible environments is a continuous activity. Standards and regulations change. Technology develops. Some things get easier while other challenges appear.

It’s important to continue to learn about disability and accessibility. Encourage those around you to do the same. Continue to be an advocate for more inclusion in all your environments, including the office.