The business case for more diversity in the workplace is becoming evident. A recent study from the Boston Consulting Group study found that companies with more diversity in their management teams reported revenue from innovation that was 19% higher than companies with below-average leadership diversity.
However, in the diversity conversation people with disabilities are often left out of the mix. In Australia, people with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in the workforce. A 2011 report (PDF) commissioned by The Australian Network on Disability found that in 2009, "only half of the 2.2 million working-age Australians with a disability were employed, compared to nearly 80% of working age Australians without a disability".
To increase employment of people with disabilities the workplace needs to be made more accessible. A critical part of this equation is the accessibility of information and communications technology (ICT). Without accessible ICT it will be difficult to employ and retain staff with disabilities.
For the recent refurbishment of our Kooyong office there are many features that make our workplace accessible to people who are blind or have low vision, amongst other disabilities. Below, we highlight some of these features.
'Homers' and 'Roamers'
Some of our staff require assistive technologies or a mat for their Seeing Eye Dog to lie down on. These staff are called 'homers' and they have a 'homer' desk for their set-up. Homers' are also encouraged to roam so the standard setup of all machines and workstations around the office include a range of assistive technologies. 'Roamers' choose a desk or workspace every day depending on the type of work they are doing.
Image 1: A 'homer' desk provides a mat for a Seeing Eye Dog.
Voice activated meeting rooms
Vision Australia has a distributed workforce spread around all of Australia in capital cities and regional locations. To facilitate meetings, we use the Zoom video conference software. Zoom has an accessible user interface, and we have ensured our implementation works with screen readers, enables all users to share their screen, digitally record sessions and transcribe discussions of meetings to share or refer to at a later date.
Our meeting rooms use Zoom's voice activation feature so staff can start a meeting without having to find a button or press a touchscreen.
Image 2: Video conference meetings can be activated using a voice command.
Lockers are provided to support Roamers, and prevent trip hazards being placed beside desks Our lockers display the numbers in high contrast and braille formats. The keypad is also high contrast and tactile.
Image 3: Locker numbers are high contrast and in braille formats. The locking system has a high contrast keypad.
The design of our check-in system had to be inclusive to all visitors. The digital solution provides visitors with the option of checking in using the touchscreen or a high contrast keyboard. The Voiceover screen reader is supported and can also be toggled on and off by the front-of-house staff or the visitor themselves.
Image 4: Visitors can check-in using a touchscreen or a high contrast keyboard. The Voiceover screen reader can be toggled on and off.
Single/double monitors are provided on monitor arms. The arms have a forward reach that allows the monitor to come to the front edge of the desk for people with low vision.
Image 5: Monitors are on an adjustable arm. The arms extend enough to allow staff to position the monitor at the edge of their desk.
The future workplace needs to be designed to support the different technologies and ways staff prefer to work. ICT needs to be part of this equation and should be factored into the design and planning of the workplace.
Digital Access provides consulting services for designing and testing ICT in the workplace. Contact us to talk about how we can help your project or organisation.
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