When looking into the design of an office or general work space, it’s important to ensure the space, and access to, does not disadvantage any individuals, including those with a disability. Things taken into consideration when designing or adjusting work spaces may include the size of the space, the equipment and furniture, and access points (walkways/doorways etc.), to ensure all have equal opportunity to succeed at work.

With 10 million people registered as disabled in the UK, the importance and relevance of making adjustments is huge.  So, what qualifies as a disability? The Disability Discrimination Act defines disability as a “physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-today activities”.

So this includes physical disability (such as those who require a wheelchair), speech, sight or hearing impairments, as well as mental health disabilities; anything which has an effect on the individual’s ability.

Overall design on the office space is easily and simply adjustable to make the space efficient for all. According to gov.uk, the adjustments which must be made to ensure disabled workers are not disadvantaged are as follows:
  • making reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process
  • doing things another way – e.g. allowing someone with social anxiety disorder to have their own desk instead of hot-desking
  • making physical changes – e.g. installing a ramp for a wheelchair user or an audio-visual fire alarm for a deaf person
  • letting a disabled person work somewhere else – e.g. on the ground floor for a wheelchair user
  • changing their equipment – e.g. providing a special keyboard if they have arthritis
  • allowing employees who become disabled to make a phased return to work – e.g. working flexible hours or part-time
  • offering employees training opportunities, recreation and refreshment facilities

Taking the above list into account, in office space, things such as pathways, doors and desk-heights being suitable for wheelchair use, are always necessary when designing the space. Pathways, in particular emergency evacuation routes, are essential in being in-place and safe for all workers.
  • Fire and Rescue Services (NI) Order 2006 requires the management of buildings to assess egress policies to address the evacuation of all staff and visitors from the premises, including all people with disabilities.

In multi-story buildings the use of a lift should always be available, for those with mobility issues, as well as ramps, designated parking spaces and accessible toilet facilities.

Factors such as type of chairs, stationary and technology may also need to be altered to suit the individual. For example those with sight-impairments may need colours of paper or screens to be changed to ensure they are not disadvantaged in seeing and completing their work. Brighter or modified lighting and clearer signage are also easy amendments to make to the space.

Aesthetics may not seem as important as function, however if complimenting colours and design are available (for ramps for example), it will make the space more visually-pleasing. This may make the work environment simply a nicer place to work, as well as not drawing attention to the disability adjustment. For it to blend into the design, there will be nothing out-of-the-ordinary or eye-catching, which could potentially single out the disabled individual in an uncomfortable and unfair manner.

For more information on disability at work visit the following links:

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry, with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.
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