5 ways to make your workplace disability friendly
October 6, 2020
by Joshua Cook

5 ways to make your workplace disability friendly

Did you know that people with disability are 30% less likely to have a job in Australia than any other nation? On the open employment market, people with disability face many assumptions, stereotypes and myths that hurt their chance of finding meaningful employment. 

The poor employment participation is not only influenced by conscious and sub-conscious workplace ideals, but also systemic barriers in society that prevent full inclusion and participation in Australian workplaces or communities.  

With one in five Australians living with disability, all employers and organisations have an important role in making sure everyone has an equal chance at obtaining new employment opportunities. In many cases, employers may not realise that some of their current employees have an undisclosed disability, which means it’s important to ensure you workplace is disability-friendly, regardless of whether you actively hire people with disability.

Employment of people with disability in Australia

As one of the lowest rated OECD countries, we believe Australian workplaces can do better. There is considerable evidence supporting the case for a more diverse workplace, with studies showing that people with disability are more loyal and remain more productive in the workplace compared to most other cohorts. Similarly, studies have also found that people with disability have much better attendance records and higher productivity rates compared to other “mainstream” employees.  

In many cases, employers may not realise that some of their current employees have an undisclosed disability, which means it’s important to ensure your workplace is disability-friendly, regardless of whether you actively hire people with disability. By considering all potential employees regardless of age or ability, organisations have greater access to talent with a diverse range of experiences, perspectives, abilities and skills. 

This article will guide you through some of the steps that you can take when considering a diverse workforce suitable for people with disability. 

Making your workplace disability friendly

Ensuring accessibility in the workplace means your staff can work in an environment free of barriers and is more equipped to a broader range of needs and opportunities. Here are some strategies your workplace can implement to help ensure your workplace is accessible.

#1 Create an Accessibility Action Plan

An Accessibility Action Plan (AAP) (also known as a Disability Action Plan) is a set of processes and procedures designed to inform staff about how to implement accessible practices. Organisations that have an Accessibility Action Plan are often seen as inclusive and are more attractive to employees.
The use of an Accessibility Action Plan is beneficial for both organisations and for people with disability, as it enhances corporate image, delivers more effective services, and accesses a wider market. Examples of actions in an Accessibility Action Plan may include:  

  • Ensuring all locations and facilities are wheelchair accessible.
  • Providing disability awareness seminars for your employees.
  • Providing different information or promotional resources to cater to those with vision or hearing impairments.
  • Implementing a Customer Engagement survey for customers with disability on accessibility of products and services.
  • Creating an Inclusive Events checklist to be used for all events in the workplace.

#2 Actively employ people with disability

Employing people with disability is not only a great way to find fantastic new staff, but it also enhances corporate reputation, economic growth and prevents financial discrimination. Creating an inclusive recruitment process can greatly reflect your organisations values and commitment, and there are ways to include it throughout the process. For example, you can: 

  • Review the job description to reflect the essential requirements of the role and note any flexibility in requirements.
  • Consider including statements in your advertising material such as “We are an equal opportunities employer who will. provide reasonable adjustments for people with neurodiversity and people with disability”.
  • Advertise roles through Disability Employment Service providers like Breakthru.

For more resources on inclusive recruitment processes, check out the Queensland Government’s fact sheet on employing people with disability

#3 Have Accessible Places & Spaces

Accessibility is crucial in removing barriers so that everyone has equal access and it also makes good business sense. There are some arrangements you can do immediately to make your organisation more accessible and at little cost, such as:  

  • Ensuring you keep walkways clear and clean, free from hazards.
  • Provide accessible print materials (consider braille, text-to-speech, easy-to-read fonts, photos)
  • Offer flexible point of sale (wireless EFPTOS, online check out and delivery).
  • Checking and rearranging office supplies and furniture to ensure accessibility to those with mobility challenges.
  • Provide staff training on disability awareness to help your organisation be more supportive when working with people with disability.
  • Ensure lighting is adequate.

You can also contact an access consultant to help you meet accessibility requirements, providing indicative costing and advice to meet building industry obligations (e.g. installing a ramp in your facility).  

#4 Create Inclusive and Accessible Events

Last year Breakthru celebrated International Day of People with Disability through FOCUS, a photo exhibition dedicated to telling stories of Breakthru customers through creative photography. These events not only increase awareness but promote inclusivity, diversity and taps into great long-lasting communities. To make sure you are creating an inclusive and accessible event you can:  

  • Stay up to date with annual awareness events such as Multicultural Month, Disability Action Week and AccessAbility day
  • Ensure people who use wheelchairs can move freely across the whole premise, including exits and entrances.
  • Check that there are accessible toilets with features for wheelchair users, including wider doors, floor space and appropriate fixtures.
  • Refer to an Inclusive Events Checklist to help ensure your event is accessible and inclusive.

#5 Make Websites Accessible

Websites provide a unique opportunity for customers to access information about your company’s services, as it communicates using different methods to everyone. However, some people with disability may require assistive technologies to properly access information online, and here’s how you can help:

  • Consider using WordPress (WP) Accessibility, a multi-function plugin that solves common accessibility issues and helps users easily read your content. Breakthru has enabled this feature on our website, and it is important to us that we create opportunities for accessibility for everyone.
  • Use Alt Text for people who use screen readers to access websites. Alt Text is the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage and helps screen-reading tools describe images.
  • Include subtitles and transcripts if you are uploading videos to your website.

Need more help?

There’s a lot to consider in providing an ideal workplace that is equipped for a diverse, thriving and productive workforce. With these resources, you’ll be able to start your journey toward inclusivity and foster a culture where everyone feels valued and supported. 

As a disability services provider with over 25 years of experience, we can work with you to improve your hiring processes and make your business more accessible for people with disability.

To get started on ensuring your workplace is accessible, contact us today. 

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In the spirit of reconciliation, Royal Rehab acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future and we extend our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples.