How To Create A Disability-Friendly Workplace
Here are five simple solutions companies can incorporate to make their workplace more disabled-friendly
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In 2011, World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that there are one billion people with disabilities (PWDs), which is equivalent to 15 per cent of the world’s population. If you go by WHO’s data, India should have more than 150 million disabled people.
Javed Abidi, director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), said: "Out of the 150 million, at least 60 to 70 million must be of employable age but the cold and bitter truth is that not even two per cent of them are employed.”
If we consider the 70 million people, it is equal to the population of United Kingdom. Hence, the problem is as gargantuan as the size of an entire country!
The government is now promoting Accessible India campaign to include PWDs in the mainstream and the intention is laudable. But, is private sector geared up to provide equal opportunities to the people with disabilities to work? Making ramps and having disable-friendly toilets in the workplace isn’t the end all of HR policies. Inclusion will happen when it is a part of the company’s policies and hiring strategy and not just included as an afterthought. It has to start from choosing an office premise that is accessible to providing the assistive technology to help them have equal access to perform their day-to-day jobs.
Shilpi Kapoor, founder of Mumbai-based assistive technology provider company BarrierBreak, that has 75 per cent of their workforce as PWDs, shares with BW Businessworld five simple solutions companies can incorporate to make their workplace disabled-friendly.
1. Implementing an assistive technology programme
In today’s times most jobs require knowledge of computers and technology. Often, people with disabilities may need assistive technology to support them in the workplace. This could include colour coded keyboard, screen reader and magnifier, assistive listening devices, refreshable braille displayers amongst others. Create an Assistive Technology programme in the company that provides access to the employee based on their needs so he or she is able to perform the tasks without any impediment. Also, provide them the relevant training to get utmost benefit from the assistive technology.
2. Ensure your websites are accessible
Employees need to access corporate websites regularly so companies can ensure that websites comply with the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) 2.0 so all the employees have equal access to the information and the PWDs don’t have to depend on anyone to get work done.
3. Providing support during meetings
In-person and online trainings need to consider the diverse needs of people with disabilities. This could include providing sign language support, ensuring that training material is available in Braille, large print or accessible PDF.
4. Sensitisation and training
Conduct sensitising workshops and disability etiquette training for all employees. This will ensure that the fully bodied employees know how to work along with colleagues with disabilities.
Sensitisation will help the employees overcome any biases they might have against people with disabilities. Also, training is crucial to provide the employees the know-how of providing assistance to the PWDs when required.
5. Releasing accessible communication
Make your internal communication whether it is your policy documents, employee newsletters and corporate documents accessible. Also, ensure that it is available in accessible formats based on the employees’ needs.