Open up workplaces to those with special needs

Friday January 18 2019

Career breakthrough. A lady with  physical

Career breakthrough. A lady with physical disability makes beads. People with disability should be given equal work opportunities as those without. Photo by Rachel Mabala 

By Joan Salmon

In an age where inclusiveness is the way forward, there is need to cater for the needs of those with various disabilities at the workplace. Beatrice Nakanyike, was an able-bodied girl but owing to a car accident, she lost use of her body from the waist downwards. Confined to a wheel chair, the brilliant woman’s future is bleak yet there is much she can do.
“I have a first class degree in Accounting and great grades in ACCA, but I have so far failed to get employment because I am impaired,” she says.
Equal opportunities for people with disability starts with having an all inclusive workplace.

Parking lot: For workplaces with parking lots here is where the first efforts should be, Adrian Nangosha, a construction consultant advises. Parking space that can be used and accessed by all is a great idea. Therefore, a designated space for where they can park and get out of their cars with ease is ideal.

Variation of material: For people with total visual impairment, Henry Twahirwa, a director at Sleek Construct Ltd, says variation of material textures on walkways and walls of different rooms will enable them keep track of spatial transitions. This eases their movement. Some of the materials to work with include cloth, wood, metal.

Lighting: Different types of light and divergent colours also help persons with partial visual impairment to identify various surfaces.
Twahirwa says, for example, a coloured strip running along the edge of each stair will help one to find and use the staircase with ease. Another modification could be ensuring that door frames are of a different colour from the walls to avoid one from bumping into a wall, mistaking it for a door.

Ramp or elevator: Marcus Niwamara, a Built Environment Researcher with Gido+Shifo, says, for persons using crutches or wheelchairs, adding a ramp would ease their movement greatly.

Washrooms: These also need to be easily accessible, Twahirwa says. Therefore, handrails on the walls for one to hold on to when getting off and on to the wheelchair will ease toilet use. He also says making the toilet area bigger than normal will ease manoeuvring for wheel chair users.

Office space: Apart from the washrooms, the office space should also be ample to allow free movement and turning of wheelchairs.

Adjustable tables and desks
Most workplaces use non-adjustable workstations or tables. However, to make it possible wheelchair users to work with ease, adjustable desks and tables should be introduced to ensure comfort.

Equipment, shelving, and filling systems: These need to be located in easy-to-reach areas that are at an appropriate height to allow employees with disability reach them easily.

Personalise PCs: For those that are visually-impaired, you could also ensure their computers are user-friendly. Jean Ainemugisha, a blind computer specialist says braille display devices that are capable of reading the monitor and presenting the text in Braille have been a great help to her. “Employers can avail such devices to their visually impaired staff for better productivity,” she adds.

Information dissemination: Most workplaces use email to pass on information. However, Ainemugisha advises that employers adopt an audio format.
“For example, voice mail, teleconferences would work for work places with many offices. In cases where offices are in different locations, providing audiotapes would help them greatly,” she says.
Another alternative would be sending and receiving email using the phone. That is because braille can be installed on it for easy communication.