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Debra Ruh

Employability & Technology


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02/22/2012

The Importance of Workplace Accessibility


Sometimes people think workplace accessibility only relates to new hires, but it’s just as important to retain your talented employees, says Debra Ruh.

It is critical to assure that the workplace is accessible for your current employees and future employees. Sometimes people think workplace accessibility only relates to new hires, but it’s just as important to retain your talented employees. Replacing employees is very expensive.

A study by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California, Berkeley evaluating the effects of the US Family Medical Leave Act found that “turnover costs for a manager average 150% of salary, including tangible costs of hiring a new employee and relocation, and intangible costs such as the new employee’s inefficiency and lost productivity while the job is vacant.” The same study, incidentally, found that the cost of a temporary replacement is only 39%).

How can workplace accessibility help you retain the talented employees currently working for your firm? As employees move through the lifecycle they are sometimes impacted by temporary or permanent disabilities. It might be because of age related issues, a stroke, a disease like cancer or diabetes or maybe a sports injury or car accident. However, many employees can still be productive if the workplace is accessible and accommodations are provided. Companies want their employees to be productive and do not want to lose the value assets of the employee or their intellectual capital.

What can you do to make your workplace accessible?

Assure that all HR systems are fully accessible including benefit programs, PTO, and any other internal systems.

When you hold training programs online and in-person be sure the training is fully accessible. If you use videos for training or other purposes be sure they are captioned. Assure all intranets and internal service programs are fully accessible.

Train your managers, supervisors, recruiters and team members about accessibility and inclusion. Be sure your employees understand that diversity is a part of your organization’s culture.

Offer accommodations to all employees. An accommodation can be as simple as a parking space close to the building’s entrance, a one-handed key board or allowing an employee that is hard of hearing to utilize an instant messenger program.

Look at all the touch points you have with employees, clients, vendors, partners and other stakeholders and assure they are accessible. Specific touch points may include:

  • Websites
  • Online HR Systems
  • Intranets
  • Service Centers
  • Products and Services
  • Promotions – Marketing & Communications
  • Procurement
  • Training

Be proactive and make workplace accessibility part of your culture and blend it into your processes. Workplace accessibility will allow your employees to be more productive and creative and assure a solid ROI for all stakeholders.

Debra Ruh (born 1958) is an advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. She is President of TecAccess, LLC, an internationally renowned consulting firm focused on accessibility of information technology products. Ruh's daughter was diagnosed with down syndrome.[1] Additionally, she speaks around the globe about full accessibility of information technology for persons with disabilities, and on the subject of telework, TecAccess’ model for employing persons with disabilities. 

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• USA: Department of Labor Launches Virtual Workplace Flexibility Toolkit during National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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