How Can Inclusive Design Create a Welcoming Workplace?

How many of the colleagues that you work with on a daily basis have a disability? Chances are it’s more than you think. That’s why inclusive design makes business sense, says this article on Real

Companies that leverage inclusive design have a broader talent pool to draw from which can translate into a business advantage. The aging baby boomer population, for example, is prone to hearing or vision impairments yet brings a wealth of experience to a company. Millennials are more likely to be diagnosed with cognitive or mental health disorders like autism or attention deficit disorder, while former military members may have cognitive or physical disabilities as a result of their service. However, all those groups can offer a fresh perspective on business activities.

“Over the last several years, in large part thanks to the ADA (American Disabilities Act), people have become more educated and aware of a variety of disabilities,” says Kim Vanderland. Ms. Vanderland is Senior Vice President of Strategic Consulting at JLL, an American investment management company specializing in big corporate real estate. “This has led to more understanding of the fact that people with disabilities can contribute in the workplace.”

Inclusive design does not require costly updates or renovation as the modern workplace already incorporates aspects of inclusive design. Components of inclusive design in the workplace can include:

  • The “closed fist” rule: equipment, door handles and other objects can be operated with a closed fist

  • Use of different colors for horizontal and vertical surfaces and changes in elevation to reduce the risk of falls and to help those with vision impairments

  • Adjustable lighting operated by touch panel rather than traditional switches

  • Removal of obstructions from hallways or open spaces

  • Blinds or curtains to eliminate glare on computer screens

  • Ergonomic chairs, desks, keyboards and monitors, and storage accessible to people of all heights

  • Installation of multi-sensory safety alarms (visual, audible) and large-print instructions for emergency and safety equipment

Creating an inclusive workplace shouldn’t fall on a single team – it has to be a combined effort from across the business and can involve bringing in outside experts, says Ms. Vanderland. With today’s companies comprised of diverse, multigenerational workforces, inclusive design can not only help accommodate the varied needs and preferences of different people, but make them feel welcome, valuable and productive. In this regard, inclusive design is a win-win for both employers and employees alike.