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What's your approach to accessibility?

28 Aug 2018

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By Richard Southorn, Head of Workplace Adjustment Services, Remploy

My friend Jane recently stayed at a well-known hotel chain. Jane is a wheelchair user and booked an accessible room. From an accessibility perspective, the room met her needs. However, as the room was larger than standard and the television very small, she couldn’t relax after a hard day’s work and watch TV in bed. The accessibility of the hotel enabled her to stay, but did not encourage her to return. She has since found other hotels that better meet her needs along with providing a high quality accessible room.

A while back, the use of evacuation chairs were a standard procedure. Whole teams of people were trained to accompany a disabled employee or visitor in the rare case of evacuation. Challenges still remain, especially with older buildings, but as estates improve with the installation of fire lifts, disabled employees can evacuate with dignity like anyone else. For people like my friend Jane, it’s sometimes a very different experience.

Improvements in access are evident, and being able to meet basic accessibility needs is now expected. However, the question remains; are organisations missing out by focusing on enabling, or should organisations do more to attract and engage disabled talent and customers alike?

There are now many great examples of organisations doing something a little different to attract and engage disabled employees and customers: 

  • The BBC introduced a number of specific measures to make it easier for people with autism to visit and work at its’ Salford HQ. Initiatives included interactive films on the BBC Shows and Tours website, autism awareness training for all tour guides, reception staff, security guards and a pilot work experience scheme for people with ‘neurodiverse’ conditions.
  • Marks and Spencer’s ‘Marks and Start’ programme helps people who face barriers into work, including those with disabilities or health conditions.
  • For consumers, Morrisons introduced a weekly ‘quieter hour’ for autistic shoppers who find it difficult to shop by dimming lights, turning music off and avoiding using the tannoy. They also turn down the noise of the check-out beeps.
  • Finally, for you film buffs, Odeon cinemas has a weekly performance for people with sensory difficulties where lights are kept on at a low level, lower sound levels, no trailers or advertisements and allowances for increased levels of movement and noise.

Clearly, there’s a business benefit underpinning these and many other similar initiatives. Whether looking to develop a more representative workforce, or accessing the ever growing spending power of disabled people it should be a focus for any business. 

So the question remains; ‘are you enabling, or really looking to engage and attract talent and customers?’

About Richard
I have over 20 years’ experience in workplace adjustments, advising public and private sector organisations on best practice and leading teams to deliver exemplar services to clients.

In my current role, we’re responsible for the delivery of holistic workplace adjustments programmes to a client base that includes the BBC, BT and GCHQ amongst others to protect and develop their greatest assets, whilst enabling thousands of talented individuals to reach their full potential.

You may also be interested in reading our other blogs on workplace adjustments, including one on employing people with Autistic Spectrum Condition and how work based adjustments can make all the difference.

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