New ways of working that boost accessibility

According to Leonard Cheshire – one of the UK’s largest voluntary sector providers of services for disabled people – there were 7.5 million working-age people living with disabilities or long-term health conditions in 2020 in the UK, which is around one in five people of working age.

Over the years, the rise of flexible working, assistance technologies, and an inclusive culture have all made the workplace more accessible for everyone.

Internal communications, intranet systems, workplace documentation, and access to suitable equipment can all help people be more effective and productive by helping solve individual challenges such as reading, confidence with data, and ability to use IT equipment.

Smaller businesses can make small changes that make workplaces and ways of working more accessible.

It starts by ensuring that recruitment is free from bias and as inclusive as possible and encompasses procedures such as working arrangements, workplace adjustments, deploying assistive technologies, and fostering a diverse and inclusive business culture.

Read our guide on why diversity and inclusivity matters and how it can benefit businesses.

Adapting the workplace

What are reasonable adjustments?

Under the Equality Act 2010 employers are legally required to make "reasonable adjustments" to the workplace to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

Reasonable adjustments are adjustments and alterations made to a workplace to accommodate disabled individuals and make tasks, duties, and the work environment more accessible.

These adjustments are made so employees with disabilities can work comfortably, safely, and effectively.

These can include physical alterations, such as installing handrails or widening walkways, or work-specific adjustments, or even flexible working hours.

These adjustments can be temporary or permanent, depending on the needs of the individual.

What is accessible working?

Accessible working refers to removing barriers to make sure nobody is excluded from taking an active part in working life.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their workplace and the way they work, are accessible to as many people as possible.

This is in addition to the reasonable adjustments required by law for disabled staff and job applicants.

Accessible working doesn't just refer to physical aspects of the workplace. It can also be digital.

For example, making communicative and informational technology accessible to all employees and compatible with assistive technology devices and software, such as text-to-speak applications.

New ways of accessible working

Flexible working options

Organisations offering flexible working may be viewed more favourably by disabled job hunters and can enjoy higher employee retention rates.

Flexible working can include working from home for specific periods of time, adjusted work hours to avoid crowded commutes, and condensing hours into four rather than five days.

Flexible work hours can bring both mental and practical benefits.

Staff can enjoy a better work/life balance, protecting their mental health while achieving work deadlines.

Implementing assistive and accessible technology

Technology can prove a barrier to individuals with specific disabilities such as limited vision, reduced hearing and mobility, or memory issues.

The Government has an Access to Work grant scheme to help individuals and employers pay for assistive technology required for work purposes.

This includes technology such as reading pens, transcription services, text-to-speech, and word prediction software.

Provide disability awareness training for all

Employees may be unaware of the realities and difficulties their disabled colleagues face and how they can provide the appropriate support.

Disability awareness training could help employees become more aware of the difficulties people with disabilities face in the workplace.

This includes avoiding certain phrases and words that may come across as condescending or helping them without being asked.

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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