An accessible office is a smart space

The key to accessibility is not a large investment in necessary adjustments, but a chain of actions that go from design to communication.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the world’s population, about 1 billion people, live with some type of disability. In Latin America there are around 85 million people with disabilities and, according to Inclúyeme – a company that works for social and labor inclusion – 30 million are outside the work market.

Inequality of educational opportunities and ingrained prejudices influence this situation, as does the lack of accessibility. Many organizations are unaware of what makes a workplace accessible and believe that large investments are required to achieve this. Accessibility is contemplated in article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that entered into force in 2008. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay are among the countries that have ratified it.

What is an accessible place? Carla Martínez Sastre, an architect who specialized in accessibility and works in the Commission for the Full Participation and Inclusion of People with Disabilities (COPIDIS) of the City of Buenos Aires, defines it as “a space that allows all people to enter and make use of its facilities and services, under equal conditions, with total security and autonomy. This condition will be subject to the communicational, attitudinal and constructive resources that are used ”. For Martínez Sastre, when evaluating whether a space is or not accessible, it is essential to understand accessibility as a chain of actions that necessarily have to be linked to each other.

Generally, the main obstacle is the lack of knowledge. “There is a belief that making a space accessible requires a lot of work, when in fact with some interventions and an intelligent use of resources such as signage, flexible furniture and new technologies it is possible to create a more friendly environment for everyone,” she explains. Martínez Sastre highlights the concept of “universal design”, which means thinking of products, spaces and services suitable for use by as many people as possible without the need for adaptations or specialized work.

Globant – which has 50 offices in 36 cities – is learning and incorporating practices that lead to accessibility. As part of its learning process, it is working on a regional level with Inclúyeme as well as establishing alliances with local organizations such as Fundación Bensadoun Laurent in Uruguay and ReIN in Chile, among others. “Both outside and inside the company we seek to carry out initiatives to work promoting diversity in a broad sense, and one of the issues we are increasingly focusing on is the effective inclusion of people with disabilities in the industry”, explains Francisco Michref, director of Public Affairs and Sustainability.

“There are many types of disabilities, even many that we don’t know about, therefore, we are always generating necessary adaptations,” explains Eduardo Oppenheimer, VP Corporate Real Estate, who is in charge of the design of Globant’s offices. It seeks to be aligned with the ADA brand (2010 ADA Standards For Accessible Design), an international standard that sets guidelines on accessibility issues.

Workplaces are an environment in which people spend a large part of their lives. Designing offices suitable for everyone fosters a true culture of diversity, which has a direct impact on equal opportunities, the ability to innovate and the growth of all within the company.

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