A diverse workplace is necessary for the long-term success of a business. Having a talent pool that consists of people from different backgrounds brings new perspectives and ideas and ensures you a broader range of communication skills and styles. However, if your office space isn’t accessible, it can prevent talented employees from safely navigating the workplace and may even deter them from working for you.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 16 percent of the global population has a disability. That’s 1 in 6 people. Even if you run a small company with only 50 employees, that means 8 of those valuable workers are, in many ways, left out of day-to-day operations. The inclusive design of indoor workspaces is the key to attracting and retaining a diverse range of employees. It shows employees and customers that you and your company are serious about providing a safe (and diverse) work and learning environment.
What is Inclusive Design?
Inclusive design is the practice or concept of intentionally including the needs of everybody when designing an environment, product, function, or service when we look for solutions that work for and help everyone instead of catering to the “average” person. To prevent unintentionally excluding anyone. And it enables efficient solutions and support for a wide range of physical and mental differences while being subtle enough to avert unwanted attention to a particular group of users.
Some examples of systems that can be implemented in the workplace are:
- Digitally maps of your office building and use of a wayfinding app that gives auditory turn-by-turn directions to help blind or low-vision people independently navigate the office.
- Ramps and curb cuts as well as stairs.
- Bathrooms with larger stalls and assistance bars.
- Automatic doors.
- Wide doorways, hallways, and areas with plenty of space to turn around in.
- Ergonomic desks, chairs, and computer equipment that can be adjusted for various heights, or to fit a wheelchair.
- Technology with voice command capabilities.
- Follow the “closed fist” rule, which dictates that items such as light switches and door handles should be usable with a closed fist (i.e., door levers instead of knobs, flat-panel light switches instead of toggle switches).
- Availability of both small, private workspaces and larger, more open workspaces to accommodate those with cognitive differences or difficulties.
- Multi-sensory safety alarms and equipment.
Many other areas encompass inclusive design but don’t be discouraged if your office doesn’t include any or all of these features. The first step toward making your workplace inclusive is acknowledging that you have work to do and creating a plan to make your space more welcoming for everyone.
How Does Inclusive Design Impact Businesses?
Inclusive design is clearly in the spotlight, and its focus has skyrocketed and has fast become a business priority. According to research conducted by Forbes, it is estimated that 40 percent of design spending within the United States and Canada will soon center on accessibility.
Incorporating aspects of universal inclusivity into your environment, product, device, or service will make you money.
Forbes estimates that tech and media companies that make this accessibility commitment will stand to earn between $10B and $16B in annual design grants and funding.
E.g., if your online service is universally available, you’ve just opened your customer and user base to loads of new people.
Maintain Your Team
Employees are a company’s most important asset. If your firm, products, or services are accessible to everyone and your workspace and training are inclusive, you are on track to keeping your team happy, loyal, and productive, and more people will want to work for you.
Continue Developing Your Business
Making a product or service accessible is a great start. However, if it is being developed entirely by people without disabilities or differences, you will likely miss the mark in some areas. Having employees with disabilities as a part of your workforce, for example, will bring valuable knowledge to the table when designing or testing new products or services.
Ensuring their workspace is accessible and practical will allow them the resources and environment to do their best work and shows you are serious about your commitment to inclusivity.
You’ll Be in Good Company
While “accessibility”, “diversity”, and “inclusive design” may seem at this time like buzzwords, they are concepts that are both ethically and financially relevant. Some major companies that have made significant commitments to inclusive design, both in their products and their workforce, include:
- Procter & Gamble
The list is not extensive, but these are a few examples of large corporations that have made accessibility a priority for their employees and visitors.
The bottom line is that inclusive design can only have a positive impact on your company. You’ll build a broader range of customers and create a happier, more productive workforce.