Workplace Accessibility

Accessibility is the degree to which something is accessible to people. This may be information (one format or in multiple formats) or physical spaces (stairs, ramps, elevators, signage in English, Braille, with photos, etc.). We often think of accessibility in terms of accommodating individuals with disabilities. However, as the Youtube video suggests, designing things with disabilities in mind helps everyone, not just those with a disability. Ideally we want our workplaces to be accessible to everyone regardless of their level of ability or preferences. For example, including pictures on signage around the workplace not only helps individuals with a reading impairment but also those who have difficulty reading the local language. When we travel to other countries, it is nice when signs have pictures on them because I don’t have to translate every sign to navigate a space. Additionally, the written labels help us learn the language. We do this all the time without realizing it. Many restrooms in the United States have images on them rather than words. There are countless reasons to make a workplace more accessible. Everyone benefits. 

For this assignment you will assume the role of a consultant and conduct an accessibility audit on your current workplace. This includes accessibility for both the employees and the customers. If you are not currently employed you may use any space, other than your home, that you frequently visit (e.g., school, church, local store). You will be looking for characteristics of the workplace that will suit, or not suit, different types of people. Although it should include physical accessibility, ramps, wide doors, etc. it should also include other dimensions of accessibility. For example, people vary on the degree to which they enjoy interacting with others. Many workplaces, without proper research, were quick to adopt open floor plans that places all employees in the same space, or only separated by glass. This does not take into account that people, although social, need some degree of quiet and privacy to work and think. These workplaces, in an attempt to increase creativity and productivity, actually are often less efficient. They are not accessible to all and therefore causes certain talent to self-select out of that workplace and into one that suits them better (i.e., another company). In a hyper-competitive market it is important to not only attract but retain top talent. 

Your report should include a detailed description of the workplace. You should include a summary of everything that is good and everything that needs attention. This should be written as if you were presenting it to the client that hired you to conduct the audit. Therefore make sure that you use a respectful and productive tone throughout. As usual, the actual format is entirely up to you. (By allowing students to express themselves in the way that best suits them I am effectively increasing the accessibility of the class.)