7.3 Making physical workspaces accessible
The Equality Act 2010 places a legal duty on education providers, employers and service providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ within the workplace to allow disabled people to take part in education, use services and carry out their day-to-day workplace activities. In hybrid work environments physical and online workspaces need to be considered together, both in terms of the your organisation’s and the employee’s remote physical workspaces, and the activities that can be done in either or both a physical and an online environment.
In terms of physical workspaces, the design or layout of a building (including space between desks and other furniture, the arrangement of conference rooms, etc.), how you access it (e.g. parking and signage) and what’s inside it (e.g. desks, chairs, lighting, toilet facilities) are just some examples of factors that may present a physical barrier for a person with a disability. With regards to improving wellbeing, are there spaces in or around the buildings where employees can go to rest or recharge?
If your physical workspace is a university campus, how would you describe it in terms of accessibility? The Scope resource in the next activity will help you with this.
Activity 17 Finding out if a workplace is accessible
Scope is a charity that campaigns for equality for disabled people. Read theirpage (Scope, 2022), and then try to answer the questions for your own physical workplace (if you have one).
You can make some notes in the box below.
How did your workplace measure up? Were you surprised by anything Scope asked you to think about? How many of them had you previously considered as potential accessibility issues?
If you think there are issues to be addressed at your workplace, Scope also has a page containing a range of useful information about reasonable adjustment at work.
Thinking about the wider accessibility of university campuses, an organisation called AccessAble has worked with over 100 universities to produce what they call a ‘Detailed Access Guide’, which lets people with disabilities know what access will be like when they visit the campus, including routes into the sites and what is available inside. AccessAble (originally called DisabledGo) was set up in 2000 by Dr Gregory Burke, as a result of his own experiences as a wheelchair user and disabled walker. You can visit the AccessAble website to find out whether your own HEI is included.