Access in the Office

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Let's embark on a bird’s-eye-view of office and meeting space skills and habits to make our spaces more accessible. Find resources at the bottom of this page for a more detailed look at these tips.  

Can you spot the practices below featured in past Access Tips?

Signs of Welcome

The way a space is set up and maintained can let disabled people know that we are considered part of the communities using that space. The practices below are useful ways to show that the people shaping the space have thought about access.

Physical Signs

  1. Display the International Symbol of Accessibility (pictured below) and teach staff to have the Accommodation Conversation. Consider including additional text inviting guests to ask for assistance. 
    International Symbol of Accessibility: Stick figure sitting in a wheelchair
    International Symbol of Accessibility
  2. Keep a pen and paper handy. A classic communication hack, this old standby can be used for quick back-and-forth notes, maps, and pictures.
  3. Maintain and promote a fragrance-free workplace.
  4. Check accessible features and equipment regularly. Add automatic buttons, ramps, parking, and other access features to existing daily or maintenance checklists.
  5. Keep a clear pathway to and through your office space. Make sure pathways and turning space are free of rogue trash cans, storage boxes, and coworkers’ leaning towers of Very Important Documents.
  6. Add a hearing loop to conference rooms or meeting spaces. Don’t forget the sign so that people know that it’s available!
  7. Establish and promote a quiet space. This can be a multi-use space to retreat, read, pray, nurse, focus, meditate, and more. 


How people interact can go a long way to creating a welcoming space.

  1. Question what you think you know about disability. Don’t make assumptions about people’s needs based on what you saw on TV, family members, or, ahem, your favorite monthly Access Tips.
  2. Do not ask questions because you’re “curious.” Spontaneous medical history inquiries and “how do you [do everyday thing]?” questions can be invasive and repetitive topics of conversation for disabled people. Not sure what to say? Complaining about the weather is always fun.
  3. Wait, don’t numbers one and two contradict each other?!  Nope! Totally cool to ask questions to gather information you need to assist someone. Not cool to go digging into personal business on a whim.
  4. Do not compliment people on doing everyday things. Stella Young says it best in her TED talk on Inspiration Porn.
  5. Learn a few American Sign Language (ASL) signs to welcome people in their own language.
  6. When you speak, face people and speak clearly. Really, this one is for all of us.
  7. Use a microphone at large meetings and events. And support everyone to use it. Including people who claim they, “have a loud voice.” 
  8. Send out minutes and agendas electronically, in advance. And everyone will arrive prepared. In theory.
  9. Welcome eating at meetings. When there’s food offered, include a variety of options.
  10. Distinguish between unusual and dangerous behavior. By supporting each other to consider whether someone is doing something dangerous or simply unusual, we can respond most effectively.
  11. Add access and accommodations to meeting and event checklists. On the meeting invitation, include how to request accommodations. Checking in on what everyone needs to fully participate can be a great introductions question, too.
  12. Engage all the senses. Use visual, audio, kinesthetic, and other ways to convey information to reach the most people. (And have the most fun!)

Skills for Access

Here are some skills you can use to increase access today.

  1. Make your PC Easier to use. With the Ease of Access Center in Windows 7 & Windows 10, you can magnify your screen, change display colors, change your cursor, download voice to text software, change your keyboard, and more.
  2. Receive and make a relay call. Deaf people use the phone by signing to an interpreter over a video call, who then speaks into the phone. People often mistake the interpreter’s introduction for a solicitor or a prank call. People with other communication disabilities may also use a relay service.
  3. Learn how to access sign, tactile and language interpreters at your office. This way, you are calm, cool, and collected when someone requests an interpreter.
  4. Become familiar with basic tools for communicating.  Checking out the communication options besides speaking with a mouth will prevent silly assumptions and offer great ideas for how you might choose to communicate.
  5. Give good directions. If someone with low vision asks for directions, learn how to give useful directions. And remember that it’s always rude to shout commands at (or grab!) someone who hasn’t asked for assistance.

Dive Deeper

Explore the resources below for more information on this month’s tips!

Resources for Signs of Welcome

Physical Signs


Resources for Skills for Access