Workplace design and modifications

Workbridge is the largest New Zealand-owned employment service for people with a disability or health condition.

Undertake an accessibility check of your premises, with specific reference to the mobility needs of employees. Some of the things to consider include:

  • For people with mobility impairments:
    • steps and uneven floor surfaces should be clearly marked and where appropriate a ramp provided. There are a number of things to consider when installing ramps, including permanent and temporary options, width and incline. Some motorised wheelchairs can be wide and will require a larger ramp
    • lifts will need to be large enough to accommodate the person’s wheelchair if they use one. Ensure that lift buttons are accessible to wheelchair users
    • doors should be as easy to open as possible. Consider whether it is appropriate to install automatic doors
    • toilets need to be accessible and within easy distance of the employee’s workstation
    • seating provided at appropriate points in the workplace and at meetings
    • walkways around the premises and in open plan offices need to be suitably wide. Check for hazards and remove as much clutter as possible
    • adequate lighting can avoid falls and accidents.
  • For people with visual impairments, colour contrasts, tactile surfaces, markings on glass doors and floor markings can all help to improve accessibility. Consider labelling equipment and stationery, either in Braille or large print if the person would find it useful. Allow the employee to arrange their workstation in a way which suits them.

Building regulations provide clear guidance on requirements for accessibility features. For more information see Barrier Free Trust NZ’s website. 

Where possible be flexible about where the employee is based. For example, consider whether ground floor office space is available, and if the employee would like to, is there an opportunity for them to work from home? However, do not assume that people with mobility impairments will want to work from home, as many people find this isolating and they may not have an appropriate space to work.

Review workplace accessibility and health and safety.

  • Ensure clutter and other hazards are removed.
  • Run through emergency evacuation procedures with disabled employees. Provide a buddy for people with vision impairments and others who may find it hard to exit the building in an emergency.
  • Ensure machines with alarms are also fitted with a visual alternative for employees with hearing impairments e.g. visual fire alarms and flashing lights are available for use in case of an evacuation. Personal vibrating alarms are also an option.
  • For people with conditions such as diabetes or epilepsy which can involve seizures or a sudden change in condition, discuss whether they are comfortable for work colleagues to know about their condition. Disclosure should always be with the person’s consent.
  • For people with diabetes agree what the procedure will be in case of a hypoglycaemic episode. Consider the health and safety implications of an episode occurring in a potentially hazardous work environment. It may be appropriate to reallocate tasks or provide work in another area of the business.
  • In the case of epilepsy plan with the employee what will happen in the case of a seizure. Ensure that first aid officers are aware of the agreed procedure. If possible provide somewhere private for the person to recover after a seizure. Epilepsy New Zealand provides guidance on what to do in the case of a person having a seizure.