As around 16% of working age adults are currently dealing with a disability, long term illness or impairment, you’re certain to have staff, customers or visitors who will need to be able to access your office. This is particularly important if you routinely welcome members of the general public into your office as your customers should be made to feel welcome – and they won’t if they struggle to access your space. Below, we’ll cover just a few of the ways you can make your office space more accessible to people with a range of different needs. As expert builders specialising in creating accessible spaces, we can provide much more detailed suggestions and plans for individual buildings on request.
Mobility issues – wheelchairs and beyond
The wheelchair is the symbol most often used to represent disability in this country, but it’s not the only way people with limited mobility get around. Wide doors, ramps and lifts can be a huge help to wheelchair users and those using crutches or walking aids. Hand rails on ramps and stairs as well as a place to sit and wait is essential for those who can walk but have limited stamina. Keeping aisles and walkways clear and uncluttered is vital – clutter can also be a trip hazard or fire risk, giving you another good reason to tidy up.
Intercoms, alerts and warnings – visual and audio
Technology has done away with many traditional roles, including doorman and receptionist. This can make simply getting into your building very difficult for a person with a visual impairment, who is deaf or hard of hearing, or who uses a wheelchair. Ensure that all intercoms, lifts, queue systems, fire alarms and other alerts have both an audio and a visual component and are accessible from a seated position. This need not be intrusive as it’s already very common – for example, most lifts say “floor 2” and a “2” lights up to indicate you’ve arrived at the second floor.
Put up signs and share information
Often, for good reasons, step-free access, a disabled bathroom or other useful facilities aren’t immediately obvious. Put up signs to let your customers and guests know where to go. Include information on your website and in your staff handbook so that visitors can make appropriate arrangements and staff are ready to help if required. As an example, if you have step-free access to your building but it’s reached from a different side of the block than the main entrance, list that information on your website alongside the directions to the front door.
Make it easy to see and hear
Open plan has many advantages, but it can be a difficult environment for many people to deal with. Make sure you have separate spaces where staff can meet customers or have discussions with each other. This will not only make it easier for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to follow the discussion, as the total noise will have been reduced, but will also support people with other conditions, such as anxiety, agoraphobia or ADHD who may struggle in the more chaotic office environment.