Monthly Archives: September 2016
Accessible workplaces are win-win situations: employees feel valued and accommodated, which boosts productivity, raises morale, and results in a more successful business. Roughly 14% of the population is disabled, so making your workplace welcoming means you can tap into a talented pool of prospective employees. Further, accessibility is not nearly as expensive as many employers fear. Here are just a handful of ways workplaces can be physically, technologically, and culturally accessible. Don’t forget to consult an accessibility expert if you need more advice.
1. Go paperless
Many disabled people, particularly those with visual impairments, benefit from electronic communication. The advantage is that electronic documents allow for much more flexibility; employees can adjust contrast, background colour, and font size. Some employees can use screen readers to access information if they do not have enough vision to read conventionally. Plus, you’ll save trees! The transition can feel a little daunting at first, but since many other businesses are going paperless, it makes good sense to follow suit.
2. Keep clutter to a minimum
Many disabled employees may have mobility issues that are exacerbated by excessively cluttered workspaces. Narrow pathways make wheelchair navigation particularly cumbersome, and those using other mobility aids, such as canes or crutches, will find clutter burdensome as well. Besides, maintaining a clean, well-organized space benefits everyone.
3. Use sensitivity Training
Sensitivity training is incredibly important, but many employers do not know how to provide adequate training. Sensitivity training is an excellent opportunity to answer questions, offer advice, and work through any concerns your employees may have. Many misconceptions and microaggressions can be avoided with a little education. There are resources to help you design your training materials, and you may want to consult employees with disabilities for their ideas. You may even find that this training helps those with invisible disabilities, even if they have not yet disclosed them.
4. Provide reasonable accommodations
Workplace accommodations can seem like a financial burden, but typical accommodations are low-cost and may even be beneficial to nondisabled employees. Providing information in alternate formats ensures that everyone can access it. Buying accessible software means your business will be set up for any future disabled people (and this software usually involves a one-time purchase). Investigate funding for accommodations, as government grants are often available to cover any costs your business may struggle to meet. Last but not least, ensure that your building complies with basic accessibility requirements. Ramps and designated parking are considered standard.
5. Create an inclusive workplace culture
Accommodating disabled people is about more than specialized software and a physically accessible environment. Everyone in the workplace needs to be aware of behaviour and attitudes that may cause harm, whether intentional or unintentional. Identify emotional barriers that may inhibit disabled employees from being as productive as other coworkers. Advise employees to use appropriate language and discourage them from devaluing their colleagues or assuming they cannot contribute equally. Despite many employers’ anxiety about hiring people with disabilities, they are capable and talented, meaning they are an asset. Do not treat them as inferior or less valuable. Positive workplace cultures result in happier employees across the board, so reinforce positive attitudes and behaviours as often as possible. (Don’t forget to communicate with disabled employees to discover their personal preferences. They will not be identical from person to person.)
As we’ve seen, fostering accessibility in the workplace does not need to be costly, complex, or even particularly difficult. It is generally a low-cost, high-reward process. Just try it: you’ll see.
On Thursday, September 22, we had the pleasure of hosting our monthly marketplace. This is an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to come together, promote their businesses, and engage in some collective networking. Past graduates of our Ventures Program feature prominently, but there were some new faces as well.
Meet Dana, a talented artist who comes from a long line of artistic people; it’s practically in her blood. She’s opening DIBS On Designs (Dana’s Innovative Business Solutions), and while her original dream of painting ceilings turned out to be impractical, she’s found her niche and seems quite happy to be there. In addition to landscape paintings, she expands her artwork to include logos, signs, and even furniture.
“I love to create things,” she said, and credits the Ventures program for “launching [her] career.” She added that “Ventures was like working with family.” Since her entire family is very artistic, it’s easy to imagine Ventures feeling a little like coming home.
Mohammed, a soft-spoken graduate of Ventures, talked to us about his delicious samosas. At the moment, he makes them all on his own—with occasional help from his wife—and his love for the process was evident. The samosas are still in the testing stage, and his business idea, Sambusas, is not yet officially off the ground, but judging by how popular his creations are, it’s only a matter of time until he achieves success.
Colleen, a seasoned entrepreneur, introduced us to gorgeous jewelry and assorted crafts. Her wares are uniquely beautiful, and she certainly knows her way around entrepreneurship. She explained that she couldn’t complete the Ventures program, which she regrets, but that “it’s helped so many people.” Colleen likes to get involved with local businesses, as she values supporting Edmonton’s economy. When Colleen isn’t selling her crafts, she can be found selling leggings and, of all things, popcorn.
We met a new face: Daryl, a beader, displayed her colourful creations and chatted with us about how she got started.
“I did a lot of beading as a kid,” she said, “and I started up again out of nostalgia, really.”
As she sorted through delicate bracelets and some rather unusual frog charms, she explained that her blindness, so often the focus of people’s questions, hasn’t really affected her much. “I still have colour memory, so I generally know which colours go together.” She describes the process of choosing beads as a “multisensory experience,” which the average sighted person may not be able to appreciate fully.
We host this marketplace monthly, and our exhibitors come back time after time to network, socialize, and gain valuable exposure. Whether they’re familiar with DECSA or brand new to it, the atmosphere seems to agree with them. We hope to see more members of the public dropping by to experience the magic.
When you enter our reception area and are greeted by two friendly felines, it’s easy to mistake them for carefully selected therapy cats. They’re exceedingly well-mannered, and so obviously at home in the building that you’d think they’d been trained as office cats.
In fact, Lucy and Hedley chose DECSA. Each morning, you’ll find them waiting patiently at the door, knowing that they’ll soon be fed and fawned over. They make their rounds, travelling all over the building to mingle with us. You can tell just by watching that they’re right at home.
These two have families to return to at night, but they both prefer to spend their days with us. Their owners think this arrangement is ideal: the cats have ample opportunity to be socialized (i.e., spoiled), and can come home each evening. It’s a win-win, really. Apparently, bowls of food on the doorstep (not to mention the odd treat) are enough to keep Lucy and Hedley coming back faithfully each day. They’re so punctual, in fact, that we sign them in and out, just like employees! (They seem fine with a salary consisting of treats and snuggles.)
Fortunately for the DECSA team, having a couple of cats around is good for health and productivity. The benefits of therapy dogs are widely known, but cats are the unsung heroes of mental and physical health. A cat’s very presence is known to elevate mood and decrease anxiety. So much as petting a cat can decrease blood pressure. A quick cat cuddle here and there makes us smile, calms our anxiety, and helps us create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. In short, every office should have a cat or two, just for general well-being.
Next time you drop by, be sure to say hello to Lucy and Hedley. Who knows? Maybe you’ll walk away just a little bit happier.
Have something to sell? Want something to buy? Need something to eat?
I know you must have answered “Yes” to at least one of the questions above!
Visit us on Saturday between 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. for our Community Garage Sale! Connect with your friends and neighbours, fill up on hotdogs, and support DECSA through our 50/50 draw.
See you then!
When: September 10th, 2016
Where: 11515-71 Street NW
If you’d like to reserve a table ($10), call 780-474-2500. Limited spots are available!
DECSA’s new Assets for Success program is underway! This time around we have Danielle, a beautician in the making. When Danielle came to the program her goal was to attend Numa International Institute of Makeup and Design in Calgary, AB.
Recently Danielle has taken the plunge and submitted her application! In preparation for her new adventures Danielle spent the afternoon showcasing her skills to the Assets for Success staff.
Program Manager, Jennifer Klassen volunteered to model Danielle’s makeup artistry, see below
Danielle will be offering her eye makeup services at our future DECSA Marketplaces stay tuned for more details.