When designing an office space, it’s good practice to plan ahead for the well-being of existing or future disabled employees who require easy access. It will also help visitors and clients who may wish to drop by your office and meet you and your staff in person. Taking into account the needs of disabled individuals sends a strong and positive message about the proactive nature of your company, and the value you place on people as a whole.
Before you get started on designing or repurposing an office to account for the needs of the disabled, it helps to learn a few tips that will assist you in your planning. It’s not always as straightforward as you might think, so be sure to read along to make certain you’ve accounted for everything.
READ OVER DISABILITY GUIDELINES
Before moving forward with your new office design, it’s good to familiarize yourself with local accessibility guidelines and regulations. While these are somewhat universal, there may be differences when it comes to local zoning or employment bylaws that need to be taken into account. These guidelines provide specific requirements and recommendations for creating accessible spaces that can be enjoyed by everyone, while creating a smooth and easy-to-access workspace.
PRIORITIZE ACCESSIBLE ENTRANCES
When it comes to accessibility, you should put your initial focus on all the entrances in your building or unit, including ramps and elevators for individuals in wheelchairs. Installing automatic doors will make entry and exit much easier for individuals with mobility challenges, while also providing an extra level of modernity and convenience for all. It can also help lower leftover angst for those still concerned about bacterial and viral contamination on surfaces.
ALLOCATE ACCESSIBLE PARKING
You can help make things extra-easy on your disabled employees and visitors by designating specific parking spaces situated close to the office entrance. These spaces should be wider, and clearly marked with appropriate signage for an extra level of convenience. Make sure to enforce the rules strenuously so that others do not take advantage of these spaces, or it may send a negative message about your company’s overall culture.
CARVE OUT ACCESSIBLE PATHWAYS
To make navigation easier inside the office, be certain that hallways, corridors and pathways are wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users and individuals with mobility aids. Factor this extra bit of criteria into your overall office design scheme in order to optimize overall foot traffic, and make it easier for employees to move around in the most efficient manner possible. Naturally, you should take care to eliminate any obstacles or hazards that may impede or cause injury for disabled individuals.
INSTALL RAMPS & ELEVATORS
If your office is multi-level, you’ll need to make sure that disabled individuals can travel between floors without any trouble. To that end, you should install ramps or elevators to provide accessibility to all areas in equal fashion. When factoring these elements into your office design, make sure they are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility aids, and include appropriate handrails for safe and easy use.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT OFFICE FURNITURE
Office furniture is an integral part of optimized office design, but this goes double when taking disabled people into account. If possible, try to provide adjustable and ergonomic furniture options such as desks and chairs to accommodate individuals with different abilities and needs. This includes providing seating options that cater to various body sizes and shapes. When choosing desks, try to incorporate height-adjustable options to accommodate those sitting in wheelchairs, who may need clearance.
DON’T FORGET RESTROOMS
Make sure your office restrooms are designed to be accessible for people with disabilities, and be sure to prioritize safety above aesthetics. You may install grab bars, utilize lower sinks and countertops, and ensure there is enough space to maneuver wheelchairs within the restroom. Don’t forget to include some clear signage so that disabled individuals know the restrooms are accommodating to their needs.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TECH
Remember that disabilities aren’t just limited to mobility, but hearing and vision as well. Consider the needs of employees with these types of disabilities and provide assistive technology such as screen readers or hearing aids, as required. Ensure that computer systems and software are compatible with accessibility features, and customizable depending on the needs of each specific person. Thankfully, today’s technology is more integrated than ever, which means it’s easy to serve the needs of those with hearing and visual disabilities.
AN OFFICE TO BE PROUD OF
Always bear in mind that accessibility is an ongoing commitment, but one that you and your employees can be immensely proud of. It’s good to regularly reassess and update your office design to address any issues that arise, and stay up to date with evolving accessibility standards and practices. Never forget that technology continues to advance by leaps and bounds, so try to stay up to date on current developments that can make the lives of disabled individuals so much better. By creating an inclusive and accessible office environment, you promote equal opportunities and contribute to a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Do you have employees with disabilities working in your office? Perhaps it’s time to rethink your day-to-day operations. Sensyst understands all the principles of top-notch office design, including the importance of adding accessibility into the mix. If you’re not sure how to get started with your office design, contact us today so we can help you move forward.