What is Accessibility in the Workplace?

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Accessibility in the workplace extends beyond providing physical accessibility aids like wheelchair ramps and elevators. It’s about creating an inclusive and productive space for all employees.

In this quick guide, learn more about accessibility and why it matters in the workplace.

Defining Accessibility in the Workplace

The legal definition of accessibility is “a site, facility, work environment, service, or program that is easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, and/or use safely and with dignity by a person with a disability.”

Accessibility in the workplace refers to a work environment that is usable and beneficial for all employees. Here’s a closer look at different types of accessibility in the workplace.

Types of Accessibility in the Workplace

An accessible workplace is one where employees have equal opportunities to participate. Accessibility includes physical accessibility, digital accessibility, and social accessibility.

Examples of Physical Accessibility

  • Barrier-free environments, which can include features like ramps, accessible restrooms, wide doorways, and elevators.
  • Assistive technology, such as adapted equipment like screen readers or ergonomic keyboards.
  • Accessible workspaces, which can include features like adjustable desks or specialized chairs.

Examples of Digital Accessibility

  • Accessible websites and software that make company websites, internal platforms, and communication tools compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies.
  • Accessible documents that are available in alternative formats, like audio or braille.
  • Inclusive communication that uses clear language and avoids unnecessary jargon.

Examples of Social Accessibility

  • A workplace culture that values diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), where everyone feels welcome and supported.
  • DEIB training for all employees to ensure respectful and inclusive interactions.
  • Flexible work arrangements like remote working options or short-term leave policies to accommodate employees with diverse needs or temporary hardships.

Benefits of an Accessible Workplace

The benefits of an accessible workplace can be far-reaching and impactful. Organizations prioritizing accessibility create a more inclusive and productive environment for everyone, contributing to a stronger and more successful business. Here are some of the ways accessibility efforts can benefit your company.

Increased Productivity and Morale

Employees who feel included and supported are more likely to be engaged and feel a sense of belonging. This helps reduce stress, improve mental health, and lower absenteeism.

Enhanced Talent Acquisition

A diverse and inclusive workplace attracts and retains top talent from all backgrounds, particularly among Gen Z workers who are themselves highly diverse. Accessibility demonstrates a company’s values and creates a welcoming environment.

Adhering to laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a legal requirement for most workplaces. Compliance helps avoid costly legal challenges and fines.

Positive Brand Reputation

Companies that champion accessibility are seen as socially responsible and ethical, which impacts brand image with customers, investors, and potential hires.

Improved Innovation and Creativity

Diverse perspectives and experiences lead to greater innovation and creativity. Businesses with diverse executive teams statistically outperform their less diversified competition. Accessibility fosters a richer talent pool and encourages out-of-the-box thinking.

Removing barriers and promoting inclusion creates a more equitable and productive environment for all employees, extending benefits throughout the organization.

Your Accessibility Efforts Can Improve Employee Retention

The employment rate of Americans with disabilities reached an all-time high in 2022. Accessibility is much more than a compliance issue. It is a strategic investment in a business’s future.

A 2019 report found that employers who foster a sense of belonging through accessibility and other measures experience the following:

  • 50% reduced turnover risk
  • 75% reduction in used sick days
  • 56% increase in overall job performance

Additional research shows that those businesses offering more inclusive working environments for disabled employees experienced an average of:

  • 1.6x more revenue
  • 2.6x more net income
  • 2x more economic profits

How to Implement Accessibility in Your Workplace

Accessibility is not a one-time initiative. It’s an ongoing process that requires commitment from all levels of your organization. By continuously learning, adapting, and promoting inclusion, you can reap the full rewards of an accessible workplace.

Here are a few strategies to help you promote these practices.

Identify Opportunities to Incorporate Accessibility

The first stage of implementing accessibility in the workplace is a needs assessment. Start by identifying high-priority, high-impact ways to increase accessibility in the short term. Then create longer-term accessibility goals.

Include Accessibility in Training and Communication

An essential step in promoting workplace accessibility is ensuring all employees, especially managers, can contribute. A great way to do this is to integrate accessibility topics into your organization’s training and communication strategies. When everyone shares a baseline understanding of accessibility in the workplace, you can collect valuable feedback on ways to improve.

Include topics of accessibility and inclusion in regular internal communications, whether it’s your company-wide meetings, newsletters, or another avenue.

In addition to communicating about accessibility, use accessible communication formats. For example, include optional captions in videos.

Adopt Inclusive and Equitable Hiring and Promotion Processes

Adopting inclusive and equitable hiring and promotion processes ensures opportunities are open to all. An inclusive hiring practice starts with your job description and extends through hiring processes that minimize unconscious bias.

Be prepared to provide accommodations during the interview and assessment process, such as sign language interpreters, accessible interview locations, or alternative formats for tests and assessments.

Incorporate Team and Cultural Building Opportunities

Accessibility is a key aspect of DEIB in the workplace. A critical component of fostering a robust and inclusive company culture involves team building and collaboration experiences where all employees feel valued and connected. Team building activities can include accessible team outings, collaborative projects, game nights, cultural events, or anything that brings diverse employees together.

Another powerful strategy for building an inclusive culture is regularly recognizing and rewarding employees for their achievements.

Monitor and Improve

Ongoing monitoring will help you meet the needs of all employees, including those with disabilities. This may include regular workplace accessibility assessments that review physical spaces, technology tools, and HR policies. It should also include open feedback channels, especially from staff directly impacted by accessibility initiatives.

Accessibility is Part of a Strong Team Culture

Accessibility in the workplace is an ongoing journey toward an environment where every employee can thrive. It’s a journey, not a destination, but ongoing efforts to meet the diverse needs of all employees deliver exponential rewards in the form of a diverse, innovative, and engaged workforce.

At Insight Global, we believe in the power of people. We have long championed bias-free hiring practices, helping our clients foster diversity and inclusion in generative, beneficial ways. Whether you’re looking to enhance your team with diverse talents or need a partner to find qualified, skilled candidates quickly, Insight Global is here to support you every step. Connect with our team and discover how we can help.