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A Guide On Creating An Accessible And Inclusive Workplace

In this day and age, creating an accessible and inclusive workplace is a necessity. There are no excuses for not adopting an inclusive workplace culture. Whether you're just starting your journey or looking to fine-tune your existing practices, we've got you covered. Let's jump in and explore ways you can create a workspace where everyone feels valued, respected, and ready to shine.

What Does an Inclusive Workplace Really Mean?

An inclusive workplace needs to be more than a tickbox; it’s creating an environment where every person feels welcomed, respected, and valued for their contributions no matter their sex, gender, race, age, religious background, physical ability, or sexual orientation.

Accessibility isn't just about ramps and elevators (although those are important too!). It's about ensuring that everyone has equal access to opportunities, resources, and experiences.

Inclusivity in the workplace is an ongoing commitment. It requires continuous reflection, feedback, and improvement. This means regularly reviewing policies, seeking employee input, and being willing to make changes based on what’s working and what’s not. It’s about creating an environment that evolves with the needs of its employees.

5 Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Workplace

  1. Lead by example: Actions will always speak louder than words. When you prioritise inclusivity and accessibility, your team will follow suit. Here’s how to lead by example:
  • Model inclusive behaviour: Treat everyone with respect and empathy, and encourage your team to do the same. You might get it wrong sometimes, but that’s okay. Learn from mistakes and pave the way forward.
  • Open communication: Create a workplace culture where everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinions and concerns. Your openness sets the tone for the entire team.
  1. Recognise bias: Unconscious biases are the automatic, implicit stereotypes or attitudes that influence our understanding, actions, and decisions without our conscious awareness. These can be a huge barrier to inclusivity. Recognising and addressing these biases is a necessary step in creating an inclusive workplace culture.
  • Educate yourself with diverse perspectives:  Encourage your team (and yourself) to learn from the voices and experiences of minority groups. This could involve reading books, attending workshops, and listening to talks by individuals from diverse backgrounds. Acknowledging these biases is the first step toward overcoming them.
  • Bias training: Provide training sessions to help employees understand and unlearn their unconscious biases. The more aware your team is, the better!
  1. Promote equity for all: Equity goes beyond equality; it's about ensuring everyone has access to the same opportunities by addressing systemic imbalances.
  • Fair policies: Review your workplace policies and ensure they promote fairness and equity. This includes everything from hiring practices to promotional opportunities.
  • Supportive environment: Create a support system for all employees. Mentorship programs, employee resource groups, and fair pay are essential components of an inclusive and equitable workplace.
  1. Check in with employees often: Regular check-ins with your employees are important for maintaining an inclusive environment. They help you understand your team’s needs and address any concerns as they arise. 
  • Frequent feedback: Encourage open dialogue and feedback from your employees regularly. This helps you stay in tune with their experiences.
  • One-on-one meetings: Hold regular one-on-one meetings to provide a safe space for employees to share their thoughts and feelings.
  1. Provide ongoing education opportunities: Education is a forever process. Providing ongoing training and resources ensures your team is always learning and growing.
  • Resource library: Create a library of resources—articles, books, videos—that employees can access to further their understanding of inclusivity and accessibility.

Inclusive Practices in the Workplace

  • Unbiased recruitment: Ensure candidates are evaluated based on their skills and qualifications, rather than any unconscious biases. This can involve removing names, genders, and other personal information from applications during the initial screening process to focus purely on the applicant’s experience and capabilities.
  • Flexible work arrangements: Offer flexible work options to accommodate diverse needs and lifestyles. Whether it's remote work opportunities or flexible hours, providing flexibility is crucial.
  • Accessibility features: Ensure that your workplace is accessible to those with disabilities by providing wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and screen reader-compatible technology.
  • Use gender-neutral language:  Avoid gender-specific pronouns without first asking the employee's preference to ensure everyone feels included and respected. Using terms like "they" or the employee’s name can help create a more inclusive environment. Consider revising company documents and job descriptions to use gender-neutral language.
  • Be mindful of cultural differences: Respect cultural diversity by being aware of cultural norms and customs. This includes recognising cultural holidays, being aware of dietary restrictions, and avoiding scheduling important meetings or events during significant cultural or religious events. 

By prioritising inclusivity, recognising biases, promoting equity, and maintaining open communication, you can create a workplace environment where everybody feels valued and respected. Remember, the journey towards inclusivity is ongoing, but the journey is one worth taking.