20 July 2023

By implementing workplace accommodations, employers can foster a supportive environment for all.

Image: A woman stands in front of a standing desk with an exercise ball under her knee.

At Life Without Barriers, we celebrate diversity, and we practice inclusion. We believe in the strength of a diverse workforce where the perspectives and life experiences of our people help us build strong relationships with the people we support! We have put together an easy guide for ways you and your workplace can be more accessible and inclusive for all! Workplace accommodations are adjustments or modifications made to the work environment, conditions, policies, or procedures that assist employees with diverse needs with their day-to-day tasks at work.

Many workplace adjustments are simple and free to implement, and adjustments over $500 or more can be reimbursed through the Australian government’s JobAccess scheme.

While workplace accommodations are a key practice to support employment and equal opportunity for people with disability, they also have the power to reduce physical and social barriers some people face.

Here are seven workplace accommodations employers can put in place to empower employees and promote inclusivity in the workplace.

Flexible work arrangements

Flexible work arrangements have become more common in workplaces, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Offering flexible work arrangements, such as working from home, flexible hours, or job-sharing, allows individuals to have more control over their work schedules, enabling a better work-life balance and addressing specific needs and responsibilities.

Importantly, flexible work arrangements have proven to be particularly valuable for people with disability, reducing barriers brought on by commuting and physical accessibility and enabling them to manage medical needs, conditions, and appointments.

Image: A woman in a wheelchair works at a desk in her home office.

Inclusive training and education

Workplace culture can be built to support people with disability by providing regular learning opportunities for all staff to increase their disability confidence. Training should include information about different disabilities, reasonable adjustments, communication tips, and fostering an inclusive workplace culture.

Regular training and education can help to prevent discrimination by challenging unconscious bias. This helps all employees to become educated about the barriers people with disability face in the workforce.

You can learn more about Disability Confident training programs on the Australian Network on Disability website.

Image: Three women sit together in an office, engaged in conversation.

Peer support and mentoring

Establishing mentorship programs where employees can connect with others who share similar experiences is a great way to foster a collaborative and empathetic work culture. Not only does this enable the transfer of knowledge and skills, but it also provides a support person for an employee to discuss specific challenges with.

You can also establish employee groups where people with disability can connect with others for support and share resources and experiences in a safe, non-judgmental space. At Life Without Barriers, we have DAWN (Disability Accessibility Wellbeing Network).

DAWN serves as a network and resource for people with disability and their allies. The goal is to create a great place to work for everyone by embracing the individual skills, perspectives and experiences our people bring to the workplace. The network is open to all employees of Life Without Barriers.

“Life Without Barriers is committed to creating change for people with disability, by people with disability.” Emily Reaper, Executive Officer and DAWN Co-Chair.

Image: A man and a woman sit side by side, looking at a laptop.

Assistive technology

Assistive technology, such as screen readers, voice recognition software, or ergonomic equipment, can significantly improve the working experience for employees with disabilities. There are also several free tools that can be implemented, such as Grammarly, Read Aloud, and Bionic Reading.

Often, using these digital tools not only enhances the working experience for employees with disabilities, but also boosts overall productivity and efficiency for all employees by promoting clearer communication, minimising errors, and creating a more inclusive digital environment.

Employers can also focus on ensuring their digital resources are accessible by being mindful of things like font choice, including Alt-Text and using plain English, which ensures that information is easily accessible for all team members.

Image: A woman holds a phone close to her mouth. On the screen there is an icon of a microphone and text which reads: How can I help you?.

Sensory accommodations

By accommodating sensory needs, employers can reduce overstimulation for individuals with sensory sensitivities, whilst also positively impacting focus and productivity for all employees.

Sensory accommodations can be noise-cancelling headphones to reduce auditory distractions, quiet spaces that provide a break from stimulating environments, and fidget toys to improve focus and manage stress during work hours.

It can also be beneficial to encourage ‘Do Not Disturb’ hours where employees can work uninterrupted for extended periods of time. This can help individuals who struggle with switching tasks, or maintaining focus following an interruption, and lead to increased efficiency for everyone.

Image: Two men sit at desks in an office with headphones on.

Feedback channels

Another great way to support people is to create open and transparent communication channels where employees are encouraged to express their suggestions or concerns. Having a feedback system in place allows your organisation to continuously improve and tailor accommodations to better meet the diverse needs of employees.

By regularly seeking and implementing feedback, employers demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity and ensure everyone feels valued and empowered when their voices are heard.

Image: A woman in a red t-shirt is typing on her computer.

Individualised support

While it is good practice to put accommodations in place to support a broad range of employees, it is essential that employers provide individualised support.

People with disability have different needs and requirements, and all employees will have preferences on what they need to work at their best.

The best way to start is to ask, 'What can we do to make the workplace comfortable for you?' or 'What adjustments or support can we provide to help you with your work?'

Including this in the interview, onboarding process, and during regular check-ins allows people to feel more comfortable discussing their ongoing needs and adjusting as needed.

Image: A woman in a wheelchair sits outdoors next to a man who is holding a notebook.

By proactively providing workplace accommodations, organisations can create an inclusive and supportive environment that values the diverse needs of all employees, fostering a sense of belonging and allowing people to bring their whole selves to work.

You can learn more about creating inclusive workplace cultures where people with disability thrive here.

At Life Without Barriers, our doors are always open to people with disability. We are proud to be an accredited Disability Confident Recruiter through the Australian Network on Disability (AND).

Life Without Barriers also endorses the Department of Social Services Employ My Ability campaign, which provides a guiding framework for governments, employers and the broader community to increase employment outcomes for people with disability.

You can learn more about our commitment to people with disability here.

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