People with a disability or handicap face a lot of challenges in their everyday life. Barriers from access limit their full participation in society. Business and facility owners should take a proactive step toward accommodation of persons with disabilities.
The rights of disabled and handicap persons are guaranteed by the law. The Canadian Human Rights Act includes physical and mental disability among the prohibited grounds of discrimination. Meanwhile, the Employment Equity Act aims to achieve equality in the workplace regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or ability.
Cities and provinces around the country have also created their own policies to support these existing laws. Ontario, Mississauga, and Brampton all have their own Accessible Parking rules. The province of New Brunswick developed an Employment Action Plan to increase the employment of persons with disability.
So how can you, as an employer, answer this call? A good start to empowering people with disability is providing them proper access.
Parking Lots, Hallways, and Exits
It is easy to make your facility handicap-accessible. Start with your parking lot by displaying the appropriate handicap signs. Handicap parking signs clearly identify the reserved parking spots for the disabled. These signs should feature the international symbol of access, or the wheelchair symbol.
Check the policy in your city or province to find out the size, material, and reflectivity requirements for these parking signs. You can also opt for bilingual handicap parking signs if your facility is located in French-speaking areas. Ensure that these signs are visible to people in wheelchairs. Make parking spaces more accessible by placing them near building entrances and ramps.
From your parking lot, you can then check if the rest of your facility is handicap-friendly – the hallways, break rooms, cafeterias, and the restrooms. Check their size and watch out for physical barriers that can hamper employees’ access and in turn affect their productivity.
As part of your safety program, you should establish an efficient evacuation plan that includes properly-marked exit routes accessible to both employees on foot and on wheelchairs. Building ramps instead of stairs in exit routes can also be a better alternative as these allow for a swifter exit and minimize possible injuries.
But more than access to your facility, it is also vital to create a harmonious environment among your employees. Persons of disability should be regarded based on their merits and ability to perform tasks regardless of their handicap. Encouraging an open and inclusive working environment will raise their morale and engage them more toward doing better in their jobs.