When I started my research I found that accessibility had often been interpreted as a facility’s entry and exit, taking into account use, architecture and engineering features that may prevent or enable an individual’s access. However, social interaction and users of the facility have often been ignored.
Research on accessibility has helped highlight the important interactions between a facility, the users and the psychosocial mid-point which results in a facility’s usability. Royal Institute of British Architect (RIBA) stated in a 2010 publication that accessibility could also affect those who are not disabled or elderly, if the design is poorly assessed by the architect and the executor (the client).
Workplace accessibility is an integral aspect of every worker’s wellbeing, and it has a direct influence on productivity, health and safety (United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2007). The concept of building design has been described as fundamentally responsible for every individual’s functionality, which includes psycho-social, biological, and environmental considerations.
I felt it is was imperative for further research to be undertaken. For example, research on accessibility with the help of a large facilities management company to gain significant referencing.
Considering the wide scope of the topic accessibility, I needed a niche to focus on. And I opted for the topic of: “impact of accessibility on health and safety in a work place; emphasis on mobility impaired individuals and factors that contribute to workplace adjustment.”
I came across challenges with the interview sample size for a few reasons, including the mental restriction by participants, a direct impact of social stigmatisation, multiple distant locations of participants and the inclusion criteria of an employed status with features of mobility impairment. Despite this, I was able to get a strong sample to analyse.
15% (about 1.125 billion people) of the global population is affected by at least one form of disability and 57% of 1.125 billion (about 680 million people) people are mobility impaired individuals (excluding mobility impairment due to old age). These factors contributed to the logical rationale behind my journey into the research.
Mobility impairment disability can be divided into two categories.
The first category is non-ambulatory impairment. This refers to mobility impairment without any reference, where the individual is wheelchair-dependent for movement, or is entirely dependent on a device or any other assistive method to attain motion between two points.
The second category is the semi- ambulatory. This refers to individuals who have difficulty in walking or are prone to unsecured movement (people likely apt to slip, fall and other multiple workplace motion accidents). Semi-ambulatory individuals are often: use braces or crutches; are amputees with prosthetic aids; or have conditions such as arthritis. Also, pulmonary and cardiological pathologies resulting in mobility impairments, are also grouped into the semi-ambulatory mobility category.
This study focused on both of these two categories (non-ambulatory and semi- ambulatory).
I used a qualitative methodology approach using thematic analysis to understand study participants’ experience. I interviewed employees with mobility impairments, and I also interviewed their managers.
The discussion highlighted the importance of accessibility for a better outcome in workplace safety and wellbeing. Key themes included:
Beyond the structural changes needed for a workplace adjustment, administrative and social construct also play a significant role in achieving an optimally suitable accessible workplace. It is, however, recommended that education and research such as that which the PIPER Project provides should be encouraged. In addition, right policies and programmes should be initiated and reviewed regularly. And organisations should take advantage of platforms such as Access to Work Organisation, International Labour Organisations, Non-governmental Organisations to mention a few, which have programmes that help workplace management to facilitate an accessibility adjustment.