What Is an Accessible Workplace?
Modern workspace design has pushed to become more comfortable, more practical and more productive, but equality, diversity and accessibility have also become far more important. With the emphasis on health and wellbeing we’ve seen recently, and a conscious young generation consisting of Gen-Z or Pandemials, people are more cognizant of the need for the workplace to be accessible for all. With workplace design currently experiencing a radical reinvention, employers are always pushing to appeal to younger generations, and talent.
Accessibility is about removing barriers from a workplace or work function, so that everyone has equal access to the location, tools and tasks required to perform their role. The design or layout of a building, its lighting, noise level, signage and parking are examples of factors that may present a barriers for people of different abilities.
Why Is Accessibility important in the Workplace?
There is a moral and legal duty for businesses to cater for people with different abilities, so it is important to think about how premises are accessible. There are currently over 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK according to the NHS, and approximately 3 million in the US. Their collective voice is being heard and with companies investing in modern workplace designs which aid productivity, wellbeing and comfort, it is important to cater for people of all abilities.
There is guidance on what a workplace has to provide through Disability and Equality Acts that have been passed and created, which puts emphasis on workplace accessibility and inclusion. But, disability is not always visible. In some cases, disabilities include conditions like learning difficulties, debilitation pain, fatigue and mental health disorders. This means there are a variety of different aspects to workplace design and furniture that need to be thought of.
Designing for Accessibility
You may think that it is going to be an expensive undertaking to make your building more accessible and inclusive, but it doesn't necessarily need to be. Some changes in the workplace can be quick and affordable, even simple considerations like rearranging furniture to allow wider spacing between desks for wheelchairs or installing ramps to access your premises are just two examples of quick and affordable changes.
Here, we’re going to take you through 7 tips to help make a more accessible workspace:
Provide a larger variety of height adjustable furniture. An example of this are desks that can move up and down to allow for different sitting or standing positions, operated at a touch of a button. This extends to not just typical runs of desk you expect to see in an open office, but also pods and booths. Portals are an example of where adjustable heights desks allow a solution to cater to a much wider variety of people. This also provides benefits to employees of all abilities, with the abundance of health benefits drawn from a correct working position being well documented.
Think about the physical features in the workplace; consider wider passageways for wheelchairs and moving furniture which may be restricting corridors, as well as ensuring there are available facilities on each level or having an elevator. Introducing Braille, different languages, and ensuring light switches and signage are at a suitable height for wheelchair users are also considerate ways to make your workplace more inclusive.
Be aware of the assistive technologies available like speech recognition, buttons and switches designed for people of all abilities - colour-coding can also be a great help in some situations.
Offer employees the chance to undertake training so they know how to contribute to a better working environment for all.
Offer more breakout areas for people to use for different functions or work types, allowing for more seating options, a choice of pods and booths and collaboration zones. An example of this can be seen in a recent project completed with Birmingham University who looked to provide a more inclusive environment and greater experience for all by extending the desk lengths in the Railway Carriages installed, allowing wheelchairs users to access and use the space more easily.
Ensure your reception and waiting areas are fit for all, considering every touch-point. Sign-in books may need to be completed so providing a desk at a lower level or adjustable height desk would be beneficial.
Provide mindful spaces for staff to break out into for quiet concentration time, or chill out zones for screen and comfort breaks. These solutions can really help with mental health and wellbeing of everyone.
Furniture Solutions For an Accessible Workplace
At Spacestor we take accessible design very seriously, we feel that it is important to provide equitable solutions to people of all abilities. So we wanted to highlight some of the furniture and features that specifically cater to the accessible workplace:
Consult Plus was crafted to provide an optimal and inclusive video conferencing experience. Following the principle of inclusivity, the design of Consult Plus affords an equitable experience for all users, regardless of their abilities. The accessible DDA model is designed for easy approach and entry and exit with a battery-powered push button door opener mechanism. Additionally, the design includes a level threshold for easy access. Usability and controls have been designed for people of all abilities for an equitable experience. Ergonomics have also been carefully considered with inclusion of height adjustable monitor mount and height adjustable desk.
A modular ‘kit-of-parts’ meeting room, with the flexibility to alter room style and use. Being sustainable and totally customizable, there are many options that can be utilized for a more accessible addition to the office, including level door thresholds and many accessories that can create unique and inspiring spaces, inclusive for all.
A flexible family of productive spaces catering to employee choice through a variety of individual working styles. Stay connected to the buzz but away from mainstream distractions. These come in various height and width options to cater for the diversity of the modern workforce.
Our workspaces are increasingly becoming places to collaborate and socialise, so the need for meeting spaces is ever-growing. The Railway Carriage has been developed to meet this exact need. Acting both as an ideas hub for collaboration as well as a relaxed, focus space for concentration, this office meeting booth has a sleeker aesthetic with a stronger, more modular design. Available in over 300 million combinations, it has varying styles, a huge range of finish options and accessories. Adaptations and customizable options can be included to cater for everyone, inlcuding options to extend the table or remove seating on one side so that it is easily accessible for wheelchair users.