Benefits of an Accessible Work Environment

In 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 virus accelerated a move to a remote and digitally dependent workforce. Many companies were able to accommodate employees working from home by providing a few technological changes and additional equipment to enable workers to maintain communication with their colleagues, supervisors, and clients. Some even found that productivity increased for employees working from home. The success of this remote workforce revealed a side benefit for people with disabilities.

People with disabilities are often overlooked by organizations because of the misconception that providing accommodations is difficult and costly, even though people with disabilities are dedicated and productive employees. With this avoidance attitude, companies miss out on devoted employees and the expertise offered by this talented pool of the workforce. There are some who believe the shift to remote work caused by COVID-19 leveled the playing field for many people with disabilities by removing the limitation of inaccessible office space. While this may be true, an increase in reliance on technology and a digital environment highlights the need to ensure accessibility.

At the onset of the pandemic, New Editions was uniquely positioned to readily accommodate all of our employees in our move to a remote workforce, including those with disabilities. As a recipient of the National Organization on Disability’s “Leading Disability Employer” Seal for the past five years, as well as a firm whose expertise includes accessible Information Communication Technology (ICT), we had measures in place necessary to ensure all of our employees were well prepared for the transition.

There are several important, yet fairly simple considerations and actions that all organizations can implement to make the workplace accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.

  • When purchasing any ICT for the company, do your market research and pick the most accessible product that meets your business need. This includes your phone system, printers, authoring tools, webinar platforms, collaboration tools, etc.
  • Ensure your website is accessible so those interested in joining your company can easily access information about the company.
  • Ensure that employee portals that contain valuable information are accessible.
  • Confirm all onboarding, benefits, and HR documents are accessible.
  • Make sure companywide webinars and remote trainings are accessible. The list of available webinar platforms is growing, and some even provide live captions. Also, keep in mind things you can do as a presenter to make meetings more accessible for everyone. Come back later this week to read a more expansive blog on the “Dos and Don'ts of Delivering an Inclusive Presentation.”
  • Provide relevant training for employees including:
    • Disability etiquette;
    • Accessibility and how does it apply to every employee;
    • How to create accessible electronic documents; and
    • How to conduct accessible webinars, presentations and meetings.
  • Provide assistive technology devices and other reasonable accommodations as needed.

We are hoping this movement to accommodate a remote workforce leads to an increase in the number of people with disabilities hired by organizations. Shelia Newman, President of New Editions, founded New Editions with a vision of “creating a company built around people—providing a work environment where the company is committed to the employees and the employees are committed to the company, and where work done well is cause for pride.” We have found that creating an inclusive, accessible environment allows a company to tap into a talented workforce, and empowers all employees to provide excellent service to our clients.