Just because they’re different and do things differently from ‘normal’ people, disabled people can work. In fact, in the United States alone, over 18 million individuals with some form of disability are full-time workers. Business owners and employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace to all their workers, but they need to take extra steps to meet this requirement for disabled employees.
Here are different measures you can take to ensure a healthy and safe workplace for employees with disabilities.
Changes to the Physical Features of the Workplace
The accessibility and the needs of disabled employees should be the primary focus when designing and planning for your workplace’s premises, ensuring it’s easy to access and navigate for individuals with disabilities.
Changes should address the following impairments:
- Mobility — For workers with mobility issues, it’s best to have wheelchair lifts installed and replace thick carpets with tiled floors. Doorways should also open and close automatically or with a button to avoid issues from room to room.
- Vision — For individuals with visual impairments, it’s best to install tactile ground surface indicators in areas such as the stairs or the hallways to help guide people through the premises. These include changing carpet to tiles. Adding brightly colored tape can also help.
- Hearing Limitations — For employees with a hearing impairment, you can assign any of the staff to assist this disabled worker and ensure they’re aware of what’s happening in the workplace. You can also install flashing alarms throughout the office for them.
Adjustments to Work Organization
Besides adjusting your business’s physical aspects, you also need to make some changes in your operations or work procedures, including working conditions, contractual arrangements, and promotion or training criteria. These may include reduced working hours, remote working, flexible leaves, adjustable work tasks, retraining, or redeployment. Making these changes can help disabled people attend treatment and balance their personal needs with work.
Practice Assistive Technology
Consider providing ‘specialist’ work equipment such as adapted or braille keyboards or text to speech software to help disabled workers in their jobs. These are typically associated with display screen equipment and dubbed ‘assistive technology.’ Other examples include upper limb supports or larger screens, and most of these are relatively inexpensive and accessible.
Post Signs Throughout the Workspace
Placing signs or practicing ‘signposting,’ which uses symbols, large print notices, and braille, should be incorporated throughout the workplace to help persons with disabilities such as visual impairments to go around the premises safely.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Even in emergencies, you need to consider adding special evacuation procedures for disabled employees, for instance, providing specialist equipment like evacuation chairs or training ‘normal’ staff to assist or alert employees with disabilities during an emergency. It’s also best to implement both audio and visual alarm systems to alert workers with visual and hearing impairments.
Provide Work Assistance
For employees that have trouble in their jobs, additional supervision and support are ideal. These services can include providing a reader, an assistant aiding in daily tasks, or a sign language interpreter. Additionally, ‘work’ assistance can also extend to helping the worker travel to and from work.
Employees with disabilities pose unique workplace health and safety challenges, and as an employer, you need to address these swiftly. Implementing the factors mentioned to your operations can help you make your disabled employees feel safe, respected, and protected — promoting an all-around excellent working environment for everyone.