When people think of the word disability, their minds will mostly think of those with physical disabilities such as those in wheelchairs, sight or hearing impaired.
In Australia, the majority of people with disability have a physical disability (83.9%), while 11.3% have mental and behavioural disability and 4.8% have an intellectual or developmental disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, however, covers all of the following conditions in its definition of disability;
- Physical – affects a person’s mobility or dexterity
- Intellectual – affects a person’s abilities to learn
- Mental Illness – affects a person’s thinking processes
- Sensory – affects a person’s ability to hear or see
- Neurological – affects the person’s brain and central nervous system,
- Learning disability
- Physical disfigurement or
- Immunological – the presence of organisms causing disease in the body
To be deemed a disability, the impairment or condition must impact daily activities, communication and/or mobility, and has lasted or is likely to last 6 months or more.
Through Government policy and education, disability bias in the workplace and traditionally held prejudices are fewer by the year. Although there is a long way to go, more now than ever before, employers are looking past a candidate’s disability and concentrating on their ability, knowledge, and skill.
In addition to ethical and moral policies on workplace diversity, there are also practical considerations that must be made within the physical office environment when hiring and employing staff with a disability.
This is where your Office Fitout comes into play. More importantly, it is where the experience, the vision and the expertise of your Office Fitout company can literally save you tens of thousands of dollars and create a harmonious workplace where no-one is made to feel “different”.
Whether designing an office from scratch, remodelling, expanding or downsizing, there are three major reasons why disabled access needs to be considered in all office fitouts.
- It’s the Law
AS1428.1 2009 Design for access and mobility provides the general requirements for access in all new building work.
The latest revision of the standard is mandatory and is very specific in its requirements.
Below I have listed some of the more basic items that absolutely have to be considered at the design stage of any office fit out.
- Circulation space around doors. Depending on the approach direction of any doorway there is an “exclusion zone” which must be kept clear.
- There must be a 30% luminance contrast between the wall and the door. Even the toilet seat has to have a 30% luminance contrast to the background. This is to assist people who are visually impaired.
- Passing spaces are required when corridors exceed a set distance, and corners of corridors need to have enough room to allow for a wheelchair to comfortably turn in them.
- Reception areas must be designed in order to comfortably give a wheelchair access and waiting room. Reception desks must be designed to allow easy conversation and communication with a wheelchair user
In addition to the above, The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 states that employers must make reasonable adjustments for a person offered employment, or to an existing employee with disability, to enable them to perform the genuine and reasonable requirements of the job.
- We’re all human
According to the National Disability Strategy (2011):
Work is essential to an individual’s economic security and is important to achieving social inclusion. Employment contributes to physical and mental health, personal wellbeing and a sense of identity. Income from employment increases financial independence and raises living standards.
As parents, teachers and role models, we strive to teach our children tolerance, grace, and kindness. Just as this is the case in life, it must also be the case at work.
At Apex Executive Interiors, we go above and beyond the basic compliance to the laws and regulations for designing and building accessible office spaces. Why should anyone feel excluded or different in the workplace?
We ensure that your office space will be compliant, accessible and workable for anyone regardless of their disability. All modifications and adaptations are inconspicuous and inclusive.
- It makes smart business sense
Although some people are born with a disability, many people acquire a disability. For example, a person may acquire a disability through a workplace incident or car accident or may develop a disability as they age.
A person could also acquire a disability on a skiing holiday or be hit by a car on their way to the beach.
Imagine if the COO of your organisation was heli-skiing and spectacularly crashed to crush his or her foot? Although a macabre vision – it certainly is a possibility.
Now imagine that the COO is wheelchair bound for 12 months whilst they endure multiple surgeries.
When your office is fitted for disabled access, you can easily accommodate your COO’s new situation. Technically, they are disabled but because your office is accessible, you don’t have to face the cost of an expensive remodel or retrofit or even worse; the prospect of losing your COO as the workplace is no longer a “fit” for them.
In an alternate scenario, you are looking to hire a gun human resources director. One who has the industry experience and knowledge to revolutionise your organisation, it’s systems and it’s culture. It is altogether likely that amongst your shortlist will be a potential employee with a disability.
Wouldn’t it be infinitely easier to know that there is nothing physical in your office impeding the hiring of an employee with say, a hearing impairment or a wheelchair?
It simply makes good business sense to be accessible for all staff regardless of their disability.