Mandatory Requirements For Differently Abled Co-Working Spaces
Co-working spaces are not differently abled friendly. Why is no one talking about it?
Co-working as a concept is still alien in India but several start-ups, businesses, and freelancers have jumped aboard into the co-working ship. It would never even occur to you or me that not everyone feels that way.
Logic dictates that equality and inclusivity upholds the right for everyone to have equal opportunities in workplace. This isn’t a rant about third-wave feminism. I’m bringing up a fact that has gone unnoticed far too long.
Co-working spaces are not differently-abled friendly
Here’s how I know that:
Lack of privacy:
While co-working spaces allow employees to feel less lonely, someone with a disability might not appreciate the openness or may suffer from social anxiety resulting in adverse consequences.
Differently-abled people with auditory problems might have a different tolerance toward noise. As co-working spaces usually have no walls, this can be quite an impediment in their work output.
For someone who undergoes regular physiotherapy or visits the doctor frequently, the rigid 9-5 schedule is tough to follow. Flexibility isn’t an option in a co-working space.
Most co-working spaces have stairs inside the premises, but ramps are not built there for people using wheelchairs.
The co-working spaces that have a lift do not take into account that someone in a wheelchair may need to use it, and it is unwise to place the buttons above their reach as it leaves them at the mercy of a good Samaritan.
The actual space is not designed for a differently abled person. The doors are not wide enough. There are no support rails. The desks and chairs are meant for people without disabilities. The bathrooms do not have provisions to accommodate differently abled people. It simply does not work. We’re not talking about only wheelchair accessible bathrooms. Factors like vision impairment, one hand opratable fixtures, lightweight fixtures and easy to maneuver fixtures that aren’t heavy or require a strong grip are also the part of the design elements that lack in co-working spaces.
Sensitivity Training: Some disabilities such as Tourette’s can cause the person to stammer, stutter and yell out expletives. Usually in an office, HR can provide sensitivity training to employees highlighting the nature of the disability and how to behave around such a person. This isn’t a possibility in a co—working space.
Health and Safety: This is a major point when it concerns differently abled people. There isn’t anyone to take care of them if they need immediate medical attention or a dedicated doctor like most corporate offices have.
In 2017, the Supreme Court of India ruled that all public spaces must be differently abled friendly and that includes classrooms, offices, and training rooms. Co-working also falls under the same category but does not seem to have made an attempt toward inclusivity.
In India, we are not sensitive toward differently abled people in general. Most people don’t even know how to address someone with disability with honor. Differently abled people aren’t looking for sympathy or pity. They just want to feel included and be a part of the normal way of conversation.
For us to succeed as a whole, we must make it possible for differently abled people to work in a co-working space conducive to their well-being.