There’s no one way to approach Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. However, we’re very lucky as Workplace Experience professionals to be able to take an active and vital role in improving the setting for these initiatives. If you work at a company that is embracing diversity and inclusion, the below is simply a group of thought starters based on previous experience, pain points, and ways you could easily push forward to make spaces that better accommodate all users. The focus below is mainly on inclusion, but we will be following with more blogs on Diversity as well!
Room Schedulers and Wayfinding
I started my career when we were still using paper schedulers at Google. That feels like a long time ago. Today most companies have a room scheduler on every room that looks something like the below.
Unfortunately the way these are typically mounted (too high for people in wheelchairs), the way the display is designed (no accommodation for color blind users), and the way the casings work (do not have Braille to accommodate blind users) - is sub par in terms of inclusion. How could we change this and easily make it better? A few suggestions are to simply move the scheduler down on the wall, create displays using already known best practices from UX design, and to simply add Braille to the physical sign. Some quick sketches of how this might work are below - but please forgive my terrible skills at drawing:). Again these are just a place to start!
Conference Room Seating
As space planners we typically try to maximize the number of seats we can fit into a conference room. This helps our ratios and helps us to make sure that the room feels full. But if a room is already tightly designed, and it’s not easy to move chairs around already, what does that mean for a user in a wheelchair? Could you imagine having to come into a meeting, or an interview, and attempt to move a chair out of your way? It doesn’t seem very welcoming at all.
But what if you thought about designing your conference rooms differently? What if you left a spot at every table for users? You could easily make sure that this is done by leaving one space open, and adding a simple symbol to the end of the table. This will help people know that this is a dedicated spot, and also let your facilities team know not to place a chair there as well. A simple example is below.
A Mindset for Inclusion
As I said a few times above, this is just a beginning. These are simply thought starters that are based off my own experience and pain points I’ve observed. So how can you think about Inclusion and go further? I’m a big believer in research and that you should do your own to figure out the best way forward for your company. As a start I’d suggest the below:
- Research what the legal requirements are in your region - Are you ahead of them or not even meeting them? Are they progressive, or are they falling behind the rest of the world? What standard should you use as your base?
- Consider each area of your space and think about ways in which they could be more inclusive.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Use empathy to think about how users with difference physical abilities will utilize your space. Empathy is a powerful tool.
- Try it out! Why not create a prototype for your idea and quickly implement it. You might find that it is well received and then have the buy in to keep pushing forward with further initiatives.
There’s no perfect way to start, but starting is the hardest part. Once you start thinking about your space with an inclusive mindset, the rest will follow.