Eight ways you can make your office accessible – from entry to exit
Want to ensure your workplace isn’t just legally compliant, but is genuinely accessible for your employees? Here are eight things you need to consider.
An accessible and inclusive office environment is the key to a diverse and successful business. When creating an office space, not only do designers need to cooperate with the Building Access Regulations and Equality Legislation, they should also prioritise making modern offices vibrant and welcoming spaces for everyone.
Looking to create a more inclusive workspace? Office interior design experts Diamond Interiors have put together a walk-through journey from entry to exit, which will help you visualise and experience navigating the ideal accessible office space.
Considering hidden disabilities
When creating a more inclusive office space, it is important to have an understanding of everyone’s possible needs. Certain disabilities may not always be obvious, but are just as important. Non-visible disabilities may include but are not limited to:
- Physical – Non-visible health conditions, including diabetes, chronic pain or fatigue, respiratory conditions, incontinence, vision impairment, restricted vision, or hearing loss.
- Neurological – Including sensory and processing difficulties, autism, dementia, cognitive impairment, traumatic brain injury, or other learning disabilities.
- Mental health conditions – Including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or obsessive compulsive disorder.
The kind of support required for each condition will vary, but listening to and aiming to understand the needs of each disability can help you provide support for individuals every step of the way.
How to make your office accessible from entry to exit
If you want to ensure that your workplace is safe, welcoming and usable for all your employees, here are eight ways you can make your office accessible from entry to exit.
1) Parking and building accessibility
The first step to making any office more accessible should be its exterior. Free disabled parking close to building entries and exits is crucial, allowing members of staff to comfortably navigate their commute to and from work.
Disabled car parking spaces need wider and level space to ensure that individuals can easily and safely get in and out of their car.
2) Your office building
Disability should never be a disadvantage. Ensuring the building your office is located in is accessible to all users is vital. Ramps and handrails are vital to wheelchair users and individuals with physical disabilities along with wide corridors, electric doors, accessible toilets and communal areas.
For people with visual impairments, bright lighting and colour-coded, easy-to-follow wayfinding signs including easy-to-locate braille text are a must.
3) Your office door
The first point of entry to an office should offer easy access. Automatic doors are a great starting point as they offer individuals access without the need for physical effort to open the door. The width of the door also needs to be considered so that it can allow for easy wheelchair access.
Wayfinding is the usage of information, signage, and other design elements aiming to guide occupants through a physical environment. Starting at the front door, some people may need visual cues such as maps, directions, and symbols to aid them to get to their destination when in complex spaces.
Whether making your way to your desk or the snack bar, enhancing wayfinding with bright colours, large fonts, braille writing, and graphical cues can help staff members navigate an environment safely and securely.
Whichever way you decide to create wayfinding for staff, consistency is key to ensuring that it is most effective.
5) Navigating hallways
Once directions to a destination are established, the next step is ensuring that the spaces reflect the environment you are trying to create. Doors, hallways, and walking spaces should be wide enough to allow you to pass through comfortably.
In addition, offices should avoid unnecessary furnishings and features such as rugs, lighting, or other clutter that could cause blockages and trip hazards. If floor levels are uneven, ramps and handrails should be installed to make sure that individuals who struggle with mobility are able to move around safely and freely.
6) Flexible workstations
Desks are where you spend the majority of your time in the office, and should be adjustable to accommodate individual needs. After making your way over to your workstation, the next step to accessible work is the equipment and workstations provided.
Desks and tables should be height adjustable so that wheelchair users and people looking to stand at their desk can work comfortably. Sit-stand desks work perfectly here, as their height adjustable properties means that users can comfortably adjust their working environment to suit their needs.
Wider screens and digital displays can also be beneficial. Larger monitors, voice recognition technology, and bigger designs can help visually impaired individuals as well as people with reduced mobility.
Another sometimes overlooked factor is desk accessories and extensions. These can include easy-to-reach plug sockets and flexible monitor arms, which should be added to each workstation to allow for increased ease of usage.
7) Accessible communal areas
When at work, equal access to communal areas and amenities is important. It goes without saying that toilet and washroom facilities should be accessible to everyone. But when needing time away from their desk, easy access should include a kitchen space, quiet areas, drink and snack stations, and breakout areas among others. Ensuring easy movement, signage, and lighting to and from these areas will ensure a positive work environment for all.
In addition, allowing for flexible working spaces for employees with different areas and ways to work can help boost morale. Quiet spaces are also great for people with sensory issues, allowing them to take a moment away from what could be, at times, an over-stimulating environment.
8) Accessible exits
When you are done for the day and making your way out of the building, everyone has the right to safe escape routes and exits in the case of an emergency. Those with disabilities and especially wheelchair users are most at risk.
It is important to review the exit points and have a PEEP – Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan – in place. The PEEP should ensure all members of staff are properly trained, identify all exit points, and name anyone appointed to assist a disabled individual in the case of an emergency.
This should also include evacuation aids such as an evacuation chair, ramps for people with reduced mobility, and audible and visual alarms for individuals with hearing and visual impairments.
Adapt to each individual’s different ways of navigating your rorkplace
Promoting a flexible and inclusive work culture is an essential part of long-term success for any business. Gaining employee feedback through honest communication and/or surveys can be a great way to instil trust and create positive employee engagement, and a more harmonious work environment.
If you don’t know, ask, but above all, it is important to put others’ needs before your own, and adapt to each individual’s different ways of navigating the modern workplace.