What Is Accessibility?

Accessibility is the practice of adapting work environments, communication tools, and job duties to accommodate people with disabilities. As set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. Accessibility is also an important consideration for customer interactions.

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What Are Some Examples of Accessibility Measures?

Location Accessibility

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.

Technological Accessibility

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—including all icons, images, videos, and buttons—even if they are visually or hearing impaired. They should be able to navigate menus and have the same experience as a traditional user while using assistive technology such as a voice reader.

Equipment Accessibility

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.

Accessibility in the Workplace: Why It’s Essential

Accessibility in the workplace helps everyone. After all, a physical or technological environment that impedes someone’s ability to fully access or interact with it makes things harder for everyone. Remember that an employee’s disability or need for accommodation is not the problem — the obstacles to accessibility are the real issue!

Additionally, focusing on both physical and web accessibility guidelines allows you to provide equitable opportunity to all employees in the workplace. It ensures that everyone you work with can enjoy the full benefits of employment, regardless of their ability or circumstances.

Finally, accessibility is essential for you to remain compliant with the law. The ADA requires that employers with 15 or more employees ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to all the benefits of employment. You may face costly fines, penalties, and lawsuits for violating anyone’s rights in this regard.

Accessibility Guidelines and Best Practices

Employers generally have three goals when it comes to following ADA accessibility guidelines:

  1. Ensure there is equal opportunity in the application and hiring process.
  2. Ensure people with disabilities can perform the essential functions of the job.
  3. Ensure every employee can equally enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment in your workplace.

The ADA outlines many accessibility guidelines concerning your responsibilities as an employer. Here are some examples of physical and technological accommodations that can help you meet these goals:

Here are a few accessibility best practices to keep in mind as you work toward accessibility in the workplace:

It is critical that you maintain an environment of trust where employees feel comfortable disclosing sensitive information to you. Your employees need to know that you will listen and respond to their needs.

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Are Employers Liable for Accessibility?

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 settlement after a visually impaired worker was fired when he asked for an accommodation with the computer portion of his new-hire training.

What Are the Benefits of Accessibility?

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.

Reducing Employee Turnover

Your employees want to work in an environment where they feel like they matter. Making the proper accommodations for all employees can keep valuable employees from leaving to find an employer who is more sensitive to their needs.

Improving Workplace Productivity

People with disabilities may need proper accommodations to do their jobs well. When you provide these accommodations, you allow them to maintain a high level of productivity, which ultimately benefits everyone on the team.

Raising Morale Among Employees

Employees who consistently have their needs met are more likely to feel valued and cared for. This can significantly raise employee morale and make your workforce even more passionate about working hard toward the collective mission.

Reducing Workers’ Compensation Claims

An accessible environment is much safer for people with disabilities. Ensuring the safety of your employees can reduce workplace accidents and may result in fewer workers’ compensation claims.

Improving Diversity in Your Workforce

An accessible workplace environment helps you retain employees with disabilities. This benefit can naturally make your team more diverse. Diversity has been shown to increase both innovation and profitability.

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