Songow encourages all businesses to research and understand ADA compliance which is business type-specific, the EVERYDAY CHALLENGES people with disabilities face, and the BENEFITS of creating a disability-friendly workplace.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It also mandates the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services. The ADA was revised by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-325), which became effective on January 1, 2009. The ADA is codified at 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. While many large businesses have complied with the law, often many challenges still exist. You can see a few of these challenges on our Everyday Challenges page. Your large business may be in compliance, but is it truly a Disability-Friendly Workplace?
What is a Disability-Friendly Workplace?
A disability-friendly workplace is an inclusive culture that involves the full and successful integration of diverse people. Inclusive cultures extend beyond the basic or token presence of workers who have disabilities. They encompass both formal and informal policies and practices, and involve several core values:
- Representation – The presence of people with disabilities across a range of employee roles, and leadership positions
- Receptivity – Respect for differences in working styles, and flexibility in tailoring positions to the strengths and abilities of employees
- Fairness – Equitable access to all resources, opportunities, networks, and decision-making processes
One of the most heralded concepts in disability advocacy and cultures in the last decade is the concept of “universal design.”
Universal design refers to the construction of structures, spaces, services, communications, and resources that are organically accessible to a range of people with and without disabilities, without further need for modification or accommodation. While accommodations procedures remain a needed function of most businesses and industries, forward-thinking approaches to disability inclusion will involve developing sites and resources that require no accommodation to be fully usable to people with disabilities.
There are many websites about universal design available.
The Process of Universal Design
Key considerations to address when applying UD to a physical space at an institution of higher education are to plan ahead and to keep in mind the diversity of the campus community at all stages of a project. The following steps outline a process for the application of UD to physical spaces.
- Identify the space – Select a physical space (e.g., a student union building, dormitory, theater, athletic facility, classroom, or science lab). Consider the purpose of the space, location, dimensions, budget, and other issues that affect design.
- Define the universe – Describe the overall population and then consider the diverse characteristics of potential members of the population who might use the space (e.g., students, staff, faculty, and visitors with diverse characteristics with respect to gender, age, size, ethnicity and race, native language, learning style, and abilities to see, hear, manipulate objects, read, and communicate).
- Involve consumer – Consider and involve people with diverse characteristics (as identified in Step 2) in all phases of the development, implementation, and evaluation of the space. Also gain the perspectives of potential users through diversity programs such as the campus disability services office.
- Adopt guidelines or standards Review research and practice to identify the most appropriate design for the type of space identified in Step 1. Identify universal design strategies to integrate with the best practices in architectural design.
- Apply guidelines or standards – Apply universal design strategies in concert with other best practices, identified in Step 4, to the overall design of the physical space (e.g., aesthetics, routes of travel) and to all subcomponents of the space (e.g., signage, restrooms, and sound, fire, and security systems).
- Plan for accommodations – Identify processes to address accommodation requests by individuals for whom the design of the space does not automatically provide access (e.g., cafeteria staff members should know how to assist customers who are blind).
- Train and support – Tailor and deliver ongoing training and support to staff who manage the physical space. Share institutional goals with respect to diversity and inclusion and practices for ensuring welcoming, accessible, and inclusive experiences for everyone using the space. Explain the reasoning behind design decisions so that design integrity is maintained over time (e.g., make sure that staff know not to configure furniture in such a way that it creates physical barriers to wheelchair users).
- Evaluate – Include universal design measures in periodic evaluations of the space, evaluate the space with a diverse group of users, and make modifications based on feedback. Provide ways for ongoing input to occur (e.g., through online and printed instruments and signage that requests suggestions from facility users).
For more information please visit the University of Washington DO-IT page
If you have considered or are considering hiring someone with a disability, here are some helpful links
Recruitment Check List
Disabled Friendly Office Furniture