A Little Accessibility Means a Lot!
At Direct Access, we are often asked for easy ways to make environments accessible for disabled people. Are there any shortcuts? How can I be more accessible? The truth is that there are no absolute shortcuts but there are many simple adjustments to any organisation that will make huge improvements to accessibility for disabled people.
The first change is that of attitude. An organisation must realise the potential of disabled people both as customers and as employees and be open to change in order to accommodate their needs. The Purple Pound is worth a staggering £274 billion and is estimated to be rising by 14% every year with more than 1 in 5 potential customers in UK disabled people. The commercial reasoning is undeniable and a change in attitude will empower staff, increase disability confidence, and reflect well on your organisation.
How does an organisation change its attitude? Training is the first stop on the journey, a good disability inclusion, and awareness training programme delivered by disabled people is relatively low cost and will empower your staff with the confidence to interact with disabled people. There really is no secret just treat disabled people with respect and dignity and if you’re unsure of their requirements ask them. Of course, there is the etiquette regarding language, personal space, and boundaries which can all be learned through training but a friendly smile and a willingness to help goes a long way.
Following on from training is the implementation of inclusive policies and procedures. Simple management adjustments can make all the difference to the experience of disabled people when accessing products, services, and employment. For example, adjustments to procurement strategy can ensure that any seating purchased is accessible with arms and backrests, any refurbishment can ensure that the finishes selected provide colour contrast. Simple inspection procedures can be scheduled and managed to ensure that accessible bays are regularly monitored to prevent parking abuse and any damaged lighting or paving is reported to the responsible local authority. There are also simple procedures that can be made as adjustments for a lack of accessible facilities. If an organisation doesn’t have an accessible WC find out where the nearest one is. If an organisation cannot provide an accessible meeting room find out where there is one you can use. Over the long-term think carefully about relocating to more accessible premises when the opportunity arises.
All of the actions mentioned are low or no cost. The implementation of policy and procedures requires careful management and monitoring to ensure it is successful which is achievable with motivation and diligence in any organisation. Providing training will incur some cost but it will result in benefits and skills that can then be applied to make adjustments to policies and procedures. So, to summarise, in the short-term get some Disability Awareness Training and use policies and procedures to improve access in the short, medium, and long-term at little or no cost.
Why is an access audit important? An access audit will help your organisation build on the foundation of policy and procedural improvements to deliver a more accessible and inclusive working environment.
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