HomeDesignSimple Ways to Improve Accessibility in the Office
A row of workstations next to a window in an open office area.

Simple Ways to Improve Accessibility in the Office

Everyone has their own unique needs when it comes to support in the workplace. For many people, this may be nothing more than a comfortable workstation where they can sit down every day and concentrate on their jobs. But there are some people who may need extra accommodations due to disabilities. 

Disabilities are more common than you might realize. According to the CDC, 61 million people in the United States are living with a disability, which works out to about 26% of all adults in the U.S. This includes disabilities that affect things like mobility, cognition, vision, and hearing, but there are many other types of disabilities to consider. 

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), employers have a responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities and very often, those accommodations can be met through office design considerations. The ADA includes many different requirements that apply to commercial buildings and working with a design-build construction company to oversee your renovation project will help ensure your space complies with ADA regulations. But designing for accessibility often creates a better experience for everyone and sometimes, simple things make a big difference.

A group of workstations in an open office environment.Open Plan Layouts

Open plan offices aren’t going to be right for every company. But if they could work for you, they’re a great way to improve accessibility. Flexibility and accessibility go hand in hand and flexibility is one of the key reasons why many companies opt for open plan offices. Things like wide hallways and doorways are a big part of ADA compliance since they make it easier for people to get around if they’re in a wheelchair. But with an open layout, it’s even easier to give people the space they need to move around in the office. 

Door Handles

When you visit offices, you might notice that lever-style door handles are a more common sight than round knob styles. This is because lever-style handles are considered more accessible since they don’t require people to tightly grasp them or twist their wrists to use them the way that round handles do. This is a good example of how designing for accessibility can help make life easier for everyone, regardless of whether or not they’re living with a disability, because lever-style door handles are also easier for people who might simply have their hands full. 

Two private work areas with glass walls.Environmental Control

Since everyone has their own unique needs, it’s important to give people options over the settings they work in. For example, some people might need quiet areas they can work in while others could need special considerations in terms of lighting. Including things like window shades or designated zones for quiet work may seem like basic ideas, but they go a long way in helping employees of all abilities be as productive as possible. Task lights at workstations are another simple but effective way to give people more control over their environment. Those who need extra light are able to access it when needed without disrupting anyone else.


Speaking of lighting, don’t forget to think about the ways the lights in your office are controlled. For example, some people might have a hard time using small light switches and flat-panel switches would be a better option to consider. Making task lights available at each workstation is another 

Access to Electrical Outlets

Electrical outlets are essential for business operations, but you not only want to make sure you have enough power outlets, you’ll also want to make sure they’re easy for people to reach. Not everyone is going to be able to get down on the floor to plug something in and even if they could, it’s not something anyone enjoys doing. Giving people workstations that include power outlets right at desk level is one great option to consider. 

Adjustable Workstations

For many people, a day at the office means sitting at a desk all day. But if someone is dealing with back issues, a day at a desk can be painful. Adjustable workstations that can go from a seated height to a standing height have become very popular in recent years and are a great way to accommodate everybody’s needs. Even people without back problems may appreciate being able to change positions throughout the day. 

Information Through Design

Office design can refer to more than just the overall look of a space. Sometimes, design is used to provide people with information, such as wayfinding. When design is being used to provide information, it’s important to think about what people may or may not be able to see. Color blindness affects about 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women, so there’s a good chance that someone might miss out on important information if proper consideration isn’t given to the use of color.

Red-green color blindness chart.

Image: rgthinkcreative

Is it time to give your office a new look? Premier Construction & Design has worked on many commercial spaces in the Metro Detroit area and we’d love to learn more about your project. Contact us to get started!