By Melissa Lyon
I was talking to a small business owner the other day and I asked if she felt prepared for the new BC Accessibility legislation. She said that her company was ready because they had already created an Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (EDI) statement, as well as having just hired a person with a disability to work there, showing that their company values inclusion. This is a great start, but there is so much more to creating an accessible and inclusive workplace!
There are many things that can be done, and most of them don’t cost any extra money. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Put Your Words Into Action – It is great to have an EDI statement, but it is just a bunch of words if what is said in the statement is not being implemented.
- Do your business practices reflect inclusive values?
- Have you consciously tried to create a diverse workforce and not just hired a token person with disabilities? Just hiring someone to meet a diversity quota puts the emphasis on their differences rather than on what they can contribute to your workplace.
- Do all of your employees feel valued and included?
- Do your employees reflect the community of people that you are serving?
- Check the Attitudes That Are Being Presented in Your Company – The tone of the company is always set by the management team, so it is important to create an inclusive atmosphere from the top down.
- Does the management team model inclusive practices and behaviors?
- Do your policies promote equality and access for everyone?
- Have you collaborated with your staff about your policies and practices? Creating opportunities for collaboration around workplace culture will help to make everyone buy-in to the company vision.
- Does your workplace create a sense of belonging for everyone?
- Do you use inclusive language?
- Does everyone feel accepted and listened to?
- Do your promotional materials reflect diversity and inclusion?
- Don’t Forget to Consider the Accessibility Aspect of Inclusion – A big part of being inclusive is also making sure that your workplace is accessible to everyone.
- Can everyone that works at or visits your business access the physical environment in a meaningful and equitable way? For example, I was just at a store where people who use wheelchairs have to get to the second floor by using a freight elevator. This is not acceptable! Everyone should have the same level of experience when navigating your business environment.
- Is your digital storefront accessible? Things like captions, alt text, video transcripts, and font size are just a few of the important things to consider. See this article about how to create an accessible website.
- Can everyone that works in your business access all the necessary tools and technology so that they can contribute equally?
- Have you spoken directly with the people who are requiring accommodations? They will be the experts and should be your first point of contact when considering how to best support them.
- Have you provided accommodations to support people with disabilities? These don’t always have to cost money. In fact, most accommodations cost less than $500 to implement. All Canadian businesses have a Duty to Accommodate – it is not just a law; it also makes good business sense.
- Have you created mechanisms for feedback about accessibility and inclusion?
Having a diverse and inclusive workplace affects not only the well-being of the employees, but also the performance of the company. It enhances problem-solving, creativity, job-satisfaction, and the company’s financial outlook. It is just good business to have a diverse workforce that feels valued and cared for!
If you would like to learn more about how to create an accessible and inclusive workplace environment and how to meet or exceed the new BC Accessibility legislation requirements, consider taking this thirty-hour Accessibility and Inclusion in the Workplace course that I am teaching in January 2023 for the Vancouver Island University Professional Development and Training Program. Registration opens September 1st. I hope to see you there!
About the Author:
Melissa Lyon is a disability consultant for the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC. She has a master’s degree in Special Education and has worked hard to get to where she is now. As a person with mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy, Melissa is a strong advocate for people with disabilities. When not working, Melissa enjoys doing karate, where she is working on getting her black belt.