Creating an Accessible Workspace
When I first entered the workforce, I was terrified to talk about my condition and discuss my accessibility needs with my supervisors. I have spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 1 and require a wheelchair to get around. Therefore, in order to be set-up for success and work independently, I require accommodations, such as a wheelchair-accessible workspace and a computer with assistive technology. Often, I did not request these necessary workplace accommodations as I was afraid my supervisors would not take my accessibility needs seriously. However, I have learned that when I am honest and open about my needs and abilities, individuals will try their best to support me. I have been blessed to have such amazing supervisors and colleagues who value me!
Over the years, I’ve had various jobs for many different organizations. Right now, I work as a lab manager for the University of British Columbia (UBC) and am also a client services worker for the British Columbia (BC) Public Service. My work provides me with tremendous satisfaction and purpose, and accessible workspaces are vital for creating inclusivity, boosting financial growth, and sparking innovation.
“Access to accessible workspaces is not a privilege, but a human right.”
When accommodations are provided to meet individuals’ specific needs, accessible environments are created, fostering diversity, resilience, and workplace achievements. In addition, when barriers are removed, people with accessibility needs can reach their full potential and have equal opportunities to participate in society.
When the pandemic started, I quickly learned how to adapt and create an accessible workspace at home. In some ways, working from home provides me with hidden benefits, as I do not have to commute or worry about finding an accessible washroom. However, I have found it more difficult to share my condition with my colleagues and explain what workplace supports I need, as there are fewer opportunities to interact face-to-face. Working from home has further strengthened my advocacy skills and taught me the importance of being assertive and asking for what I need.
My wish list for an accessible workspace would be to have a private office with space to accommodate my assistive technology and multiple monitors.
Accessibility has come so far in the past few years, and I am excited to see what the future brings!
3 Tips on How to Advocate for an Accessible Workspace:
- Be familiar with your disability, accessibility needs, and what supports you will need to do your job well.
- Get acquainted with your work environment (whether that be your office or home) and determine if you have the necessary tools/assistive technology needed to fulfill your work duties.
- Be assertive and speak up for what you need; Do not be afraid to use your voice and educate others about your needs!
“In addition to accessible workspaces, having supportive colleagues who recognize your capabilities, value your strengths, and understand your needs can make a world of difference.”
Employment and Social Development Canada. (n.d.). Making an accessible Canada for persons with disabilities. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/accessible-canada.html
Accessible Canada - Creating new federal accessibility legislation: What we learned from Canadians. (n.d.). Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/accessible-canada/reports/consultations-what-we-learned.html