How accessible is your workplace?

Hi, it’s Keith. I want to share with you an example of a barrier that I’ve run into.

A few years ago, my friend was in the hospital. When I went to visit her, I had to go through a secure access door that used an intercom system.  Located next to the window that was adjacent to the door, was a small metal box with a button on it; the door itself was about two feet to the right. When looking through the window, I couldn’t see anyone. I would later see that the front desk was about two feet away from the window, behind the wall where we couldn’t see each other. It was a big L-shaped monstrosity, about 6 feet long. It felt like it was about a mile walk to get to the door!

Clearly, the button was used to gain entry to the area. There were no nurses or staff around that I could see, but it was obvious to me that if I pushed the button, the door should unlock, and I should be able to open it. Just like when I visit friends in apartment buildings, I’m able to push the button, feel the vibration of the buzzer, and open the door to get inside the building. 

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in this hospital. I thought, “this button must not be working.” I pressed it again. And again. And again. I looked into the camera and pressed the button, thinking they must know I’m here! 

Eventually, after what felt like eternity, someone opened the door from the inside and said, “we’ve been asking for your name!” Well how was I supposed to know! There’re no lips on it for me to read. LOL. I can think of a few accessibility issues. 

First, when you get out of the elevator, it’s not clear which way to go. The size and layout of the area would make it difficult for a person who is blind to find their way. Additionally, the sign doesn’t have any braille on it, and the buzzer is not directly next to the door, making it more complicated to locate. 

Second, there is no visual feedback on the box to indicate to a person who can’t hear if it is actually working! I would have expected it to at least have a light come on or some other visual feedback for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

If people who are deaf and/or disabled were involved in design, we might have more thoughtfully accessible environments.

I believe that it is beneficial to hire or consult with people who are deaf or disabled when making design choices in our business and public spaces. Our input is valuable and by taking our input into consideration, you are showing that we  are also valued members of our society. 

Have you thought about how accessible your business or workplace is? What are some things that you could change? 

If you have a disability or are deaf, what barriers to accessibility have you experienced in a place of business? 

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A small metal box with a button on it, mounted on the wall of an office next to a window without a clear line of sight to the front desk. There is a small sign that reads, "please push button for assistance."

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