It is well documented that hiring people with disabilities is good for business, the economy and your company’s morale. That said, employers have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace so that an employee with a disability can do their job effectively.
Previously referred to as a ‘reasonable adjustment’, a workplace adjustment is a change to a work process, practice, procedure or environment that enables an employee with disability to perform their job in a way that minimises the impact of their disability.
For people with disabilities, everyone’s needs and capabilities are different.
This article summarises how you can make your workplace more flexible and accessible to employees with disabilities and cites examples of the types of adjustments that may help your employees to perform at their best.
For a person with a mobility impairment (including dexterity impairments)
- Stair lifts
- Automated doors
- Height-adjustable workstations
- Vehicle modifications (work-related)
- Accessible bathroom
- Accessible lift
- Accessible computer keyboards, mouses
- Adapted office furniture or equipment
- Speech-recognition (speech-to-text) software
For a person who is deaf or hard of hearing
- Hearing loops
- Vibrating or visual alarms
- Text Telephone (TTY) or Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging
- Live captioning
- Auslan interpreters
- Video phones
For a person who is blind or has low vision
- Screen-magnification (e.g. ZoomText) or screen-reading software (e.g. JAWS)
- Magnification software for Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) and mobile phones
- Braille machines and printers
- Video magnifiers for reading printed material
- Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSI)
- Contrasting work surfaces or trays
- Braille or tactile maps
For a person with a mental health condition
- Flexible working arrangements, e.g. working from home, working part-time, change of start/finish times
- Longer or more frequent breaks
- Partitioned area or private office to reduce noise/distractions
- Division of large projects into smaller tasks
- ‘To-do’ lists or checklists
- Regular meetings with supervisors
For a person with a long-term or chronic health condition
- Cooling collars
- Height-adjustable workstations
- Building modifications
- Changes to lighting, e.g. increased natural light, removal of fluorescent lighting
- Flexible working arrangements, for example working from home, working part-time.
- Progression planning may be required for degenerative conditions, e.g. car parks, ramps, lifts, bathroom modification
Some of the most common workplace adjustments
- Allowing a person with disability to have some flexibility in their working hours, such as working part-time or starting and finishing later
- Moving a person with disability to a different office, shop or site closer to their home or onto the ground floor, or allowing them to work from home
- Moving furniture, widening a doorway or providing a ramp so that a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid can get around comfortably and safely
- Redistributing some minor duties (not inherent requirements of a job) that a person with disability finds difficult to do
- Allowing a person with disability time off during working hours for rehabilitation, assessment or treatment (e.g. physiotherapy or psychotherapy appointments)
- Providing additional training, mentoring, supervision and support
- Purchasing or modifying equipment, such as speech recognition software for someone with vision impairment, an amplified phone for a person who is hard of hearing, or a digital recorder for someone who finds it difficult to take written notes
- Making changes to tests and interviews so that a person with disability can demonstrate their ability to do the job
- Providing Auslan interpreters for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, or readers who will read out documents for someone with low vision or learning disability
- Modifying disciplinary or grievance procedures
Remember: Everyone is different; do not make assumptions about a person’s needs or capabilities. The most important thing you can do is to ask the person. The majority of adjustments cost very little or nothing at all.
The Australian Network on Disability is a national, membership based, for-purpose organisation that makes it easier for organisations to welcome people with disability in all aspects of business.