In our last article, we explored how organizational barriers limit access for people with various disabilities. In this article, we will consider how businesses can prevent or remove organizational barriers barriers. Preventing and removing organizational barriers makes businesses welcoming to people of all abilities.
Preventing and Removing Organizational Barriers
The removal of other types of barriers may be costly or time-consuming. In contrast, businesses should not need much money or time to remove organizational barriers. Instead, they can start removing these barriers through small changes to their policies, practices, and procedures. They could change policies by explaining, in their accessibility policies, that they will meet customers’ needs when other policies prevent access. Alternatively, they could broaden their existing policies to benefit more customers.
For instance, a clothing store with a no-refund policy could remove this barrier in two ways. On one hand, the store could waive the no-refund policy for customers limited by physical barriers. Furthermore, the store could state in its accessibility policy that customers using assistive devices have this option. In this way, customers who need to try clothing on at home can receive refunds if it does not fit. On the other hand, the store could broaden its policy for all customers. A broader refund policy could be helpful for customers with or without disabilities.
Similarly, an employer with an online-only application process on an inaccessible website could remove this barrier in different ways. For example, the employer could state in their accessibility policy that they will arrange other application formats upon request. In this way, applicants who cannot apply online can learn how to apply in other ways. Alternatively, the employer could broaden their policy and give all applicants more than one method of applying. This policy change could appeal to many applicants. For instance, an applicant might want to drop off a printed application, and briefly visit the company in-person.
Likewise, agencies with limited physical accessibility that require in-person intake appointments could either change or broaden this policy. On one hand, agencies could state in their accessibility policies that they will waive the in-person requirement upon request for people with disabilities. In this way, the requirement does not prevent anyone from accessing services. On the other hand, agencies could broaden their policies to allow multiple types of intake appointments. For example, people might arrange appointments by phone or video-chat. A broader policy could allow agencies to expand their clientele to people living in other regions.
When businesses make changes to accessibility policies, all staff need to know what those changes are. Staff should know how to respond when a customer states that a policy is a barrier for them. Staff should also be aware of the solutions their business has created to remove barriers.
Part 2 of this article will consider how businesses can prevent organizational barriers in the first place.