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There are a billion people living with disabilities in the world. Yet, from those with impairments who are reliant on wheelchairs and assistive technologies, to those living with less obvious cognitive differences, every disability is different and personal. Yet sadly, with regards to accessibility and inclusion, less than one in ten people in need have access to assistive products.
Accessibility and inclusion are about more than compliance
You may see or hear terms like ‘accessibility features’ and ‘accessible spaces’ used in everyday life. These often describe devices, places, transport and so on. But accessibility and inclusion is about more than just compliance. It’s about people. While you may increasingly see wheelchair ramps or lifts in buildings, or more sign language interpreted TV output, there’s still more to be done at a human level.
For businesses, this means making everyday experiences and workplace activities available to and enjoyable for everyone. This includes how people can move around an office, interact with colleagues, and use tools to perform and be productive in their role. Understanding the challenges of disabled people and providing solutions to those challenges is key. To be successful, accessibility and inclusion must be baked into the DNA of a company.
Technology can greatly enhance accessibility and inclusion in the workplace
In this era of immense innovation, technology is one of the ways in which an organization can enhance accessibility and inclusion in the workplace. Today, software and hardware have disabilities in mind at the design stage. As a result, they enable more people than ever to do jobs they wouldn’t have been able to do, a decade ago.
Yet, once again, there’s more to be done. Compare the unemployment rate for those with disabilities and you’ll note it’s almost double the figure of those without.
Recap: what does ‘accessibility and inclusion’ mean?
Accessibility and inclusion are crucial to creating a workplace that welcomes and caters to the needs of every individual. Simply put, accessibility is about enabling any individual to interact with spaces or products in a way as close as possible to anyone else. In many cases, accessibility is a form of ‘accommodation’, such as adding ramps to a building. Or providing specialized equipment. Yet, it also applies to the creation of more universal environments designed from scratch to be accessible to all.
That’s where inclusion comes in. It means considering all perspectives when planning work, social events, and anything else a non-disabled person can take part in. It’s what takes accessibility initiatives from mere tick box exercises to creating lasting change. Instead of just requiring a business to make its spaces and tools more accessible, inclusion normalises and standardizes these practices. It pays attention to every need, not just traditional requirements.
Accessibility is also about understanding and reacting to the needs of individuals to drive inclusion. With awareness of disabled colleagues’ requirements, you can then adapt the workplace to a more comfortable and effective environment. Or it could simply be ensuring that they know their voice will be heard should they have an issue. Ultimately, everyone’s experience is different, which is why communication and awareness is crucial.
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By following its steps and guidance you’ll surely improve the working life of those with disabilities in your organization. More than that, you’ll open the door to a larger talent pool of skilled individuals.
And inclusion doesn’t solely impact those with disabilities either. Your wider workforce will also appreciate and benefit from a culture of openness and inclusivity. It can help overcome fears and stigma related to disability and generate pride in a diverse workplace.
Do also note, that you can enhance business performance by embracing inclusion. According to Accenture, companies improving their inclusivity of people with disabilities were – over time – four times more likely than others to have total shareholder returns outperforming those of their peer group.
It also reflects on those you do with business with, including your clients and suppliers. As people see and appreciate your organization’s approach to accessibility and inclusion, you will open their eyes to the positive outcomes and opportunities it affords. And with greater awareness comes even greater positive change.