If Your Workplace Isn’t Accessible, It Can’t Be Inclusive

If Your Workplace Isn't Accessible, It Can't Be Inclusive

Is your workplace accessible? While it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of ability, many workspaces don’t have accessibility measures fully integrated into their systems. An inaccessible workplace can hinder overall workspace performance. One Accenture report found that companies that practiced disability inclusion in their workforce outperformed their less-accessible peers. The study details that companies who haven’t prioritized accessibility usually lacked understanding in its potential benefits, the scope of available talent, and the cost versus ROI of disability inclusion. Workplaces are missing out on the benefits of inclusivity when they fail to make it accessible to everyone. Below are some of the benefits of an accessible workplace as well as some ways to create equitable work environments.

Disability-inclusive workspaces see a number of performance benefits. Accenture found that between 2015 and 2018, organizations that prioritized disability inclusion had on average, “28 percent higher revenue, double the net income, and 30 percent higher economic profit margins” than their less inclusive counterparts. Another report by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) found that 89% of entities that embraced an accommodating work environment saw an increase in employee retention, while 72% of employers saw an increase in employee productivity and 61% saw an increase in overall company morale. 

We know that investing in an inclusive workplace will pay for itself, but the beginning steps can feel unclear. The best place to start is by addressing federally-mandated accessibility requirements and ensuring that your company meets or exceeds them. Take note of the accessibility issues that your current employees face and evaluate potential areas for improvement. For example, if you have a visually impaired employee, all signage should be accompanied by  braille lettering.  Further, all electronic graphs, documents, and company websites should include alt text, which helps visually impaired employees process graphs and images on a document. You can also encourage employees to give feedback on their individual accessibility issues to gain a more thorough understanding of the necessary changes to implement.

Additional action items include providing accessibility training to employees, particularly non-disabled ones, so everyone understands their role in fostering an accommodating workplace.  This can include prioritizing front seats at meetings for deaf employees, or keeping walkways clear for the visually impaired and those using mobility aids. Disability aside,  emphasizing  the overall health and wellness of all employees by allowing or increasing mental health sick days. These accommodations are easier to implement than employers initially assume; 59% of workplace accommodations cost nothing to make, while the remaining 41% cost on average $500 per disabled employee (source).

The JAN toolkit and the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility requirements are excellent resources on the benefits of disability-inclusive workplaces and how to increase accessibility in any professional atmosphere. Investing in an environment that is respectful of visible or non-visible disabilities can result in a healthier, more effective workplace for everyone.

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Bianca Gonzalez is a freelance writer who specializes in intersectional social justice. She’s a queer Latina feminist who beat brain cancer at 19. You can find her at stellarwordsfreelance.com.

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