Rethink Accessibility

It's about having a workplace that includes and accepts feedback from people of every background. We are not solely speaking about cultural background, or race, or religion, or gender.

We're also talking about disabilities, which are all too often overlooked — hearing impairment especially. When you ponder how an "accessible workplace" might look, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a ramp here, an elevator there, and a few automatic doors is all you need. And while it's true that all those are important, you also need to make concessions for the hard of hearing (HoH). 

You don't need to cut and redesign an entire office building, though. A few well-placed rugs and soft furniture for sound dampening, some mirrors, and some minor soundproofing here and there can make a world of difference for your hearing-impaired employees. 

You might consider hiring a HoH person as a human resource officer or bringing someone on staff in an advisory capacity. Not only can this get you a fresh, firsthand perspective impossible to glean from a textbook, having another HoH colleague around can go a long way towards helping with feelings of isolation. 

Understand Inclusivity

Support your workers. Incorporate policies intended to make digital meetings more accessible to hard-of-hearing employees (such as requiring anyone who's not talking to mute their microphone). Train your entire employee base on inclusivity and acceptance. 

You might be surprised at the difference that can make — at how maintaining a comfortable, inclusive workplace can stop top talent from walking out the door. 

Evaluate, Update, Repeat

One of the most significant mistakes we see employers make with accessibility and inclusivity is treating it as a 'one and done' project. Once they change the layout and add some new furniture, they think their job is done. They fail to consider that as time moves on, so too does technology.

New, more advanced hearing aids. Microphones that are better at filtering out excess noise. Devices that can connect via BlueTooth to a wide range of endpoints.

And the idea that a business only needs to think about its policies once is nearly the height of arrogance. Everyone makes mistakes. There are bound to be weaknesses in your inclusivity and accessibility efforts. 

And even if there are no apparent weaknesses, there will always be areas that you can improve.

Talk to Your Employees

One of the most straightforward, obvious solutions is also one we see HR professionals overlook with baffling frequency. Instead of basing what your employees need on hours of online research and training, why not simply ask them? Engage with your HoH staff and ask them if there are any problem areas they'd like to see you address.

Not only does this allow the employees to feel valued and heard, but it also eliminates a huge chunk of the legwork you'd otherwise have to do. 

See, the problem is that unless you are yourself disabled, there will be things you'll miss. Most people, for instance, wouldn't know how hard it is to maneuver a wheelchair through a heavy door. Nor would they understand outright that the “open concept design” office layout has no sound dampening, which creates an unbearable constant distraction for a hard-of-hearing employee.

Don't Cut Corners on Health Insurance

It can be very tempting to lower overhead costs by downgrading health insurance. Unfortunately, many cheaper plans leave significant gaps, which can create considerable out-of-pocket expenses for your employees or even limit the quality and speed with which they receive care. And for your workplace, that translates into a stressed or more frequently absent employee base.

It's entirely possible to provide decent coverage without breaking the ceiling of your operating budget. You just need to do a bit of research. An accessibility consultant is often a good starting point; health insurance is an incredibly complex system, and it's beneficial to have an expert guide.


Accessibility isn't as difficult as some people might have you believe. By paying close attention to your employees, establishing clear lines of communication, implementing appropriate supports, and bringing both workers and leadership into the conversation, you can make great strides. All it takes is empathy, an open mind, and a willingness to listen and learn.