Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
Accessibility is the practice of adapting work environments, communication tools, and job duties to accommodate persons with disabilities. As set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. Accessibility also is an important consideration for customer interactions.
Like other public spaces, workplaces need to be physically accessible for people with disabilities. These considerations include ensuring that entrances, doorways, hallways, and workspaces have appropriate space to accommodate people who use wheelchairs, walkers, canes, or other mobility devices.
Company websites and other software need to be designed and maintained so people with disabilities can access them. This includes customer-facing software and the software employees use. A visitor to a website needs to be able to perceive its content, even if they are visually or hearing impaired. This includes all icons, images, videos, and buttons. They should be able to navigate menus and have the same experience as a traditional user, even if using assistive technology such as a voice reader.
The reasonable accommodations required in the ADA include providing tools to help people with disabilities complete their tasks. This extends the principle of providing all employees with the tools they need—a person with a visual impairment may need a larger computer monitor just as another employee may need a second monitor or a screen glare protector.
The EEOC can levy fines against employers who fail to comply with accessibility standards listed in the ADA. These penalties can be costly—in 2019, grocery chain Kroger paid a 40,000 dollar settlement after a visually-impaired worker was fired when he asked for an accommodation with the computer portion of his new hire training.
Giving employees the tools they need to succeed is essential for the success of any organization. Going beyond the basic accessibility requirements can show employees the employer recognizes their needs and values their contributions.