With the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) pushing the boundaries of what is expected from people with a disability, we can better identify some of the barriers slowing the progression of a more accessible world. One of those barriers – perhaps one of the biggest – is the struggle people with a disability face when trying to gain employment, not to mention the physical barriers a workplace might present. In our latest blog, MGAC Consultant Molly Pervis explores this topic from her own lived experience.
Barriers of inaccessible workplaces
As a person with a disability who uses an electric wheelchair, I've had my share of negative experiences working in inaccessible workplaces. That’s not to say those workplaces haven’t been accommodating in some ways, but there is only so much you can do when someone requires a hoist to go to the toilet and there is not one available. Unfortunately, they’re a rare commodity in your average office space, and not something you can bring to work with you.
However, it’s not just big-ticket items that make workplaces accessible. I worked for a company who only had access through the back door with a portable ramp they would put down. I can tell you from first-hand experience that waiting in the cold for your boss to answer the phone to come out the back and let you in isn’t the best example of workplace equality, and doesn’t make you feel like a valued and included member of the team.
There is something indescribable about the simple joy of entering an office building (or any building) that has automated doors and low lift buttons. And that doesn’t just apply to me and others with disabilities, it can be the person carrying a heavy box of documents, someone with a pram, or an elderly individual. The power of feeling welcomed and catered for in a built environment should not be underestimated.
Creating an accessible workplace
As a result of my work with MGAC, I’ve seen an increase in the number of large office projects that are adding more accessibility features to the design. These include:
- End of Trip facilities that include wider bike spaces suitable for recumbent bikes
- Multifaith spaces
- Changing places facilities
- Gender neutral facilities
- Toilet facilities that include showers
- Quiet rooms
This is a small sample of some of the ways we can increase accessibility in the workplace. But as I said earlier, it’s important to consider the path of travel within the workplace – the weight and width of the doors, adjustable desks, sit-stand desks for people with bad backs, and more. The key is to design your space in a way that can be adapted to the diverse needs of all of your employees.
Although COVID has taught us we are all capable of working from home, it does not discount the importance of a universally designed and accessible workplace. Let us welcome people back with open arms and doors.