What is accessibility in the workplace?
Accessibility refers to the ability of all people to access what they need in their work environment to do their jobs comfortably. For remote workers, accessibility means being able to utilize remotely the various interfaces they need to function. Resources such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) help to ensure that employers make it easy for people of all abilities to work.
Employers and HR departments of companies with globally dispersed remote workers must know the laws applicable where their workers reside as well as those that apply where they are headquartered. Following WCAG specifications is a good start and should see to it that most employees can easily work from their computers. However, laws do differ from country to country. If you have a global workforce, be sure to maintain compliance internationally.
Examples of global accessibility policies
The following are just a few policies, guidelines, and laws from around the world. Compliance involves making sure that employees are treated fairly and that every employee has the same opportunities when it comes to hiring practices as well as the ability to work.
Americans with Disabilities Act (US)
The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990. It bans employers, government agencies, and other entities from discriminating against people with disabilities. The law also protects employees from termination due to temporary or permanent disability and ensures that these people have the accommodations they need to be able to work.
The ADA also requires that all websites be accessible, including publicly-facing commercial sites as well as employee interfaces for remote workers, effectively making it a law that is followed globally.
Rehabilitation Act (US)
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to make information and communication technology (ICT) accessible to people with disabilities. Agencies must make information and data as accessible for people with disabilities as they are for people without disabilities.
EN 301 549 (Europe)
EN 301 549, treating accessibility requirements for ICT products and services, is a voluntary European standard that sets forth recommendations so that people with disabilities have access to information and communication technology, including software, hardware, websites, mobile apps, and desktop applications.
Accessible Canada Act (Canada)
Canada's ACA is similar to the ADA. It prohibits barriers resulting from policy or practice to people with physical, mental, cognitive, communication, sensory, functional, learning, or intellectual impairment. This includes physical and architectural barriers as well as barriers to information and communications. The law also prohibits discrimination based on disability.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (worldwide)
WCAG is a set of guidelines for website accessibility developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The guidelines are recommendations that help make the web more accessible to people with disabilities.
How to improve accessibility for your global workforce
Remote work can be a helpful option . The work can be done from home or anywhere else that can supply what a worker may need to move around and use a computer. People with physical or neurological disabilities who may find it difficult or impossible to work at an employer’s physical location can successfully work remotely.
Consider these best practices when making sure your HR department does its part to facilitate accessibility:
Let the public know that your company and your company’s employment opportunities are inclusive of all people, including those with physical, mental, and neurological disabilities.
Offer remote working as an option for all employees.
Make sure all systems and tools for remote positions adhere to the relevant legislation (if applicable). The interface to apply for jobs should also comply with WCAG and be easy to use for people with disabilities.
Foster a culture where in your company and be supportive of people with neurodivergence.
Provide a flexible work environment, which can be good for neurodivergent people who can choose to work at times when they are most productive.
During meetings, allow the cameras to remain off if individuals do not feel comfortable on camera, or conduct only screen-less meetings.
Record meetings so that people who miss them because of medical issues can review them later.
Consider making training materials in audio format for people who cannot see well and videos with captions for people who cannot hear well.
Make sure remote workers have all the physical and technological equipment they need to do their jobs.
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