5 ways that most offices fail to cater for the needs of disabled employees

5 ways that most offices fail to cater for the needs of disabled employees

In the modern working world there is no stereotypical employee. Age, race, colour, sex and sexual orientation are all second in line to ability to do the job and a good employee is a good employee, regardless of any other factors. Unfortunately, the same attitude doesn’t extend to disabled employees.

Although employers may have no qualms about hiring people with disabilities, the hiring is often prevented because the office space is simply not set up to accommodate a disabled employee’s needs.

With this in mind, CMD and Shaw Trust, the National charity for helping disabled workers find employment, ran a survey to determine the obstacles that a disabled employee may encounter in a general office set up. Here’s what the survey revealed: 5 ways that most offices fail to cater for the needs of disabled employees

Lack of height adjustable work spaces

The most popular response in the survey highlighted concerns about the lack of adjustable desks, as many workstations simply had ‘one size fits all’ desks that couldn’t be height adjusted. This is obviously a big issue for employees who use a wheelchair, as unlike other workers, they cannot rely on adjustable desk chairs to achieve the optimum working height.

This leaves disabled workers with two options, being positioned uncomfortably at a desk or being forced to work with a laptop on their lap. Clearly both options don’t present ideal working conditions, and may even result in posture related symptoms due to the poor ergonomics.

What can be done?

Adjustable sit/stand desks can be invaluable for all employees, not just those with restricted movement, especially in companies that employ a hot-desking approach. Aside from aiding comfort, adjustable seating can help to reduce the incidences of posture related injuries, which can lead to employees taking time off work. The standing option can also help prevent DVT and aid circulation.

Uneven floors

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that uneven flooring such as worn, ragged carpet or uneven tiles can prove to be a particular hazard for employees with restricted movement or those on crutches.

In some instances it isn’t even the state of the actual flooring that is the problem, it’s the fact that cables have been run beneath the carpet (or taped on top of it), causing a distinctive ridge across the floor. This is clearly incredibly dangerous on a number of levels, not to mention a red flag for general health and safety.

An important factor, highlighted by the Disability Business Forum is that 7 out of 10 disabled people become disabled during their working lives, further highlighting the need for a fully accessible work place. Restricted movement can apply to any employee at any point, be that permanently or temporarily, and safety in the workplace needs to be considered at all times.

What can be done?

The ideal solution would obviously be to repair the flooring to ensure that it is perfectly flat, for example replacing worn carpet, ensuring that carpet tiles are fitted properly etc.

If the problem is due to cables running beneath the flooring, is essential to find an alternative way to distribute the power. This could be done by installing more plug sockets, either on the wall or via underfloor busbars, with conveniently positioned floor boxes. If a ‘quick fix’ solution is preferable, consider rearranging desks to position them next to existing wall sockets, reducing the need for cables to be stretched across the room.

Trailing or messy cables

Similarly to uneven floors, trailing cables can also present a danger to disabled employees. The consequences of getting a wheelchair or crutch caught in tangled wires could be potentially catastrophic. Equally, tripping over wires can also have life changing results, even more so if it involves dislodging electrical equipment and pulling it over.

What can be done?

Investing in cable tidies that sit below desks will make an instant difference to both the safety and the aesthetics of an office.

Plug sockets in inaccessible places

Crawling under desks to locate available plug sockets can be irritating at the best of times, but for those with restricted movement it can be virtually impossible. It is worth considering that restricted movement doesn’t just apply to individuals who are actually registered disabled, it also affects employees suffering from bad backs, arthritis, temporary injuries such as breaks and sprains and even those in the later stages of pregnancy.

What can be done?

Advancements in power management now mean that power modules aren’t just restricted to being positioned on the wall or on socket rows beneath a desk. They can now be fitted directly into the surface (or positioned on the top) of a desk to provide instant easy access to an array of power requirements from standard plugs, USB, media and even international sockets. This means that any employee can sit at a desk and instantly access power for a range of devices.

No height adjustable computer monitors

Sitting at a desk all day can create all manner of posture related issues for employees in general. The main culprit for this is fixed computer monitors which are positioned to suit those of ‘average’ height, whatever that may be! To rectify this problem, employees often have to adapt their work space to create the optimum working position, for example, balancing monitors on stacks of books, which is clearly not ideal. Again, this is an obstacle that makes the working environment even less accessible to workers with restricted movement.

What can be done?

Adjustable monitor arms can make a huge difference to the comfort of employees as they enable the monitor to be positioned at the optimum height and angle to suit the individual employee’s height and seating requirements. Some of the latest models of monitor arms are so light and user friendly that they can be adjusted with the simple touch of a finger, making it easier for employees of all physical abilities to create the perfect working position with the minimum amount of effort.


5 ways that most offices fail to cater for the needs of disabled employees