Is Your Office Fitout Designed for Disabled Employees?

It’s all very well ensuring the needs of your current workforce are catered for in your office fitout, but how would you cope if the ideal candidate for a position in your company was disabled, or a valuable employee becomes physically impaired due to illness, an accident or pregnancy?

According to the Labour Force Survey in 2014, disabled people are now more likely to be employed than they were in 2002, but disabled people remain significantly less likely to be in employment than non-disabled people.

In 2012, 46.3% of working-age disabled people were in employment compared to 76.4% of working-age non-disabled people. There was therefore a 30.1 percentage point gap between disabled and non-disabled people, representing over 2 million people. The gap has reduced by 10 percentage points over the previous 14 years and remained stable over the consecutive two years despite the difficult economic climate.

Why Design Your Office Fitout For Disabled Workers?

With an increasing disabled workforce, a modern office fitout should readily facilitate workers of all physical abilities. It is important a modern office fitout is designed to future proof your business. For many future proofing is about technology – the latest speakers, AV equipment, internet connections, telecoms etc. These features should certainly be a major consideration in a modern office fitout, but so should hiring people with individual physical needs.

A successful company can only thrive by attracting and retaining good quality recruits and this involves catering for all their practical requirements. If the ideal candidate for a job turns out to be disabled, don’t let your office layout and office design stand in your way.

How to Improve Your Modern Office Design for Disabled Employees?

For many disabled people, they have had to become accustomed to coping with their existing surroundings, however there are some simple steps that could enhance and improve their working environment.  Here are just a few ideas on how to improve the layout and design of your office fitout to meet the needs of disabled workers:

  • Introduce wider doors
  • Grab rails in washrooms
  • Height adjustable kitchen sink units and work tops
  • Lower washroom basins
  • Wider spaces between desks
  • Disabled access ramps and railings or a lift
  • Disabled toilets with grab rails
  • Height adjustable desks
  • Cable management racks
  • Desk mounted sockets
  • Adjustable monitor arms
  • Underfloor power supply

How Non-disabled Workers Think Office Design and Layout Needs Improvement

It’s not just new recruits that you need to be consider; surprisingly 7 out of 10 disabled people become disabled during their working lives, so a modern office fitout should take this into account for retaining good office staff.

In a survey carried out by CMD and Shaw Trust, who support over 50,000 disabled people each year to live independent and inclusive lives through employment, several major obstacles were highlighted in the modern office design that would hinder someone with disabilities to carry out their daily lives.

The survey involved 515 people, aged 18-64 who worked in offices across the UK. When relating the existing office layout and practical fitting and fixtures to the needs of a disabled person, the outcome produced the following stats:

  • Lack of height adjustable office desks was the most popular answer across all age groups
  • Both men and women agreed on this point
  • The younger respondents focused on trip hazards as a problem. This includes cabling, poorly laid flooring, and cabling laid under a carpet
  • Older respondents rated inaccessible plug sockets as more of an issue

Ignoring Basic Disabled Access could be Embarrassing

It’s not just disabled employees that could find your office impractical for their physical needs, you should also consider visitors and clients. For a disabled client to turn up to your office and struggle to park or even access your building could be hugely embarrassing and even prevent your business acquiring new business.

While it is not always feasible for a business to make significant structural changes to their office layout and design, it could be worth noting the most common complaints for disabled people when it comes to visiting and working in offices:

  • Poorly thought out workstations that can reduce access to locations and essential business tools
  • A lack of accessible parking. This can cause stress and anxiety to many disabled people before the working day even begins
  • Walkways littered with obstructions that cause real barriers and trip hazards for many disabled people
  • No accessible toilet provision
  • Poorly thought out (or complete lack of) Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans, putting disabled employees in danger and leaving employers open to legal/reputational risk
  • A lack of thought about how disabled employees can access and utilise welfare provision
  • No thought into how disabled employees (and disabled visitors) can access meeting rooms

For businesses that would like to make a conscious effort to improve their workspace, in order to accommodate disabled workers, our team can carry out a full assessment of your premises. We can create a design for your office fit out that will improve the working life of disabled employees. Contact us for more information.


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