Currently, 25% of New Zealanders have access needs, and according to research, this percentage is even higher for millennials. Moreover, by 2060, the number of baby boomers with access needs is expected to reach 60%. It is important to note that these statistics do not include those with temporary access needs, or customers with small children or pushchairs.
By prioritising accessibility, you can ensure that your space is welcoming to 100% of potential customers and staff. Accessibility is not just for a small minority, but rather an issue that affects us all at some point in our lives.
Creating a more accessible environment can also help you engage a wider community and tap into the growing spending power of consumers with access needs.
What an accessibility audit entails:
Conducting an accessibility audit is a great way to identify areas of improvement. This can involve a review of the physical environment, digital accessibility, and policies and procedures.
Physical environment: The physical environment assessment involves an evaluation of the built environment to ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities. This may include assessing whether the building has wheelchair ramps, elevators, and accessible restrooms. Also looking at accessibility of parking lots, sidewalks, and entryways to ensure that they are accessible to all people.
Digital accessibility: Ensuring digital accessibility is essential for making your website and electronic documents accessible to people with disabilities. This involves examining factors such as colour contrast, text size, and navigation to ensure they are user-friendly for those who are partially sighted. It's also crucial to ensure electronic documents are compatible with screen readers and properly formatted. By adding ALT-TEXT to images, screen readers can describe the content of the image to the user, making your website more accessible.
Policies and procedures: The policies and procedures assessment involves an evaluation of an organisation's policies and procedures to ensure that they are inclusive of people with disabilities. Policies relate to hiring, training, and accommodation, to ensure that they are compliant with disability rights legislation. Additionally, reviewing your organisation's communication and feedback processes to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities.
Once you have identified areas for improvement, it is important to make changes to ensure that people with disabilities can access your workplace or services. This may include things like wheelchair ramps, accessible restrooms, and assistive technology.
Educating employees on disability awareness and inclusion is crucial to creating an inclusive workplace. This may involve providing training on disability etiquette, accessible communication, and accommodations.
Disability etiquette training: Employers can provide disability etiquette training to employees to help them understand how to interact with individuals with disabilities. This training can cover topics such as appropriate language, respectful behaviour, and common misconceptions about disabilities.
Accessible communication: Employers can provide training on accessible communication to help employees understand how to communicate effectively with individuals with disabilities. This training can cover topics such as clear communication, use of assistive technology, and accommodating different communication needs.
Inclusion training: Employers can provide inclusion training to employees to help them understand the importance of creating an inclusive workplace. This training can cover topics such as unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion, and the benefits of an inclusive workplace.
Consult with disability organisations:
Consulting with disability organisations can provide valuable insights into the needs and experiences of people with disabilities. This can help to identify areas for improvement and provide guidance on how to create a more accessible and inclusive environment.
Incorporate accessibility into policies and procedures:
Incorporating accessibility into policies and procedures is an important step in ensuring that accessibility is a priority. This may involve developing an accessibility plan or policy and ensuring that all new policies and procedures are reviewed for accessibility.
Provide feedback channels:
Providing feedback channels for people with disabilities can help to identify areas for improvement and ensure that accommodations are working as intended. This may include feedback forms, suggestion boxes, or a dedicated accessibility hotline or email address.
Continuously improve: Accessibility is a continuous process, and it is important to regularly review and improve accessibility measures. This may involve conducting regular accessibility audits, updating policies and procedures, and providing ongoing training to employees.
By taking these steps, you can help to create a more accessible and inclusive workplace or environment for people with disabilities.