The Leader Magazine

DEC 2018

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12 December 2018 the lea D er That's why in some Puget Sound Campus cafés, railings and concrete "roads" through the carpeting have been installed to clearly differentiate the travel paths from the queuing areas. In others, salad bars have been switched from a make-it-yourself to an order-what-you-want setup, so that those who use wheelchairs don't encounter unreachable ingredients. And throughout the campus, utensils and drinks in coolers are now labeled in braille in addition to high-contrast lettering. The value of design that works for everyone We're often asked whether designing for accessibility is cost-prohibitive. In new buildings, this approach to design can be folded into initial planning at little to no extra cost. After all, it costs the same to install a faucet on the side of a kitchen sink, where it's universally reachable, as in its traditional place in back. When you're building a reception desk anyway, why not make it as accessible to a wheelchair as to a standing person? When you strive to offer more accommodation than what's mandated by building codes, as we do, it's simply a matter of consultation with experts – those who use the accommodations – and empowering the designers to pursue integrated solutions. In updating older buildings for accessibility and inclusivity, a company might start small. For instance, an organization might start with a mothers' room for nursing needs in one building rather than in every building. Many people measure the urgency of inclusive design by trying to calculate how many people with disabilities work for their company. But the appropriate response to that inquiry is simply: It doesn't matter. Design that includes is, foremost, the right thing to do. Moreover, it benefits far more people than we know. Not everyone experiences a disability in their lifetime, but everyone is occasionally in need of accommodation. Anyone whose hands are full or whose wrist is broken will appreciate an automatic door push-plate. High-contrast screen settings were originally developed for people with low vision, but they come in equally handy for anyone trying to use a device in bright sunlight. An oversized revolving door accommodates a wheelchair – or a delivery cart. All Microsoft employees and visitors benefit from its new internal phone app, Campus Link, which aggregates many Microsoft workplace services into a single information hub. A person with low vision might use their own mobile phone screen reader to find the shuttle route they need, then plug in their destination building and get its floorplan for ease of navigation. In the works, thanks to feedback from Microsoft's employee advisory group: Audible turn-by-turn directions to a user's ultimate destination. s upported e mployment Program People with disabilities are underrepresented in the workplace, and the level of unemployment among people with disabilities is higher than the level for people without. This is especially true for people with an intellectual or developmental disability. That's why Microsoft Real Estate and Facilities developed the Supported Employment Program, in which we provide individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to obtain and maintain employment through ongoing support. It's a win-win, helping an underemployed community find and maintain employment while allowing Microsoft to tap into an often-overlooked talent pool of individuals. Those with intellectual and developmental disabilities show a higher-than-standard retention rate among the sorts of posts – move services, reception, mail, café, landscaping, and more – where turnover is traditionally high. The main challenge lies in clarifying roles: Microsoft vendors provide employment opportunities, and recruitment agencies find potential employees and provide job coaches to support each employee in the job. We've also learned that manager training in supervising supported workers is critical to the program's success. Over four years, the Supported Employee program has been so successful, we've expanded it from 28 to over 200 supported employees at our main campus, and extended it to six sites in North America, India, and Europe. While many such programs place people with disabilities in separate settings, Microsoft's Supported Employment program develops opportunities within the mainstream working environment. Pay, benefits, and career opportunities are as competitive as in any workplace. Outcomes include a more inclusive, more empathetic work environment, both at Microsoft and within vendor companies. And after all, that's our ultimate goal: to decrease the unemployment rate among people with disabilities while increasing the number of people who feel welcomed and supported at Microsoft. To this end, we work hard to accommodate not just people with disabilities, but people across all spectrums of human diversity: • people with autism who, through our Autism Hiring Program, can be interviewed using non-traditional methods and then afforded the workplace privacy or technological interventions that minimize distraction; • new mothers, who can pump breast milk in purpose-built private and comfortable rooms; and • practicing Muslims, who can participate in ritual washing before prayer at the private Wudu sinks we are adding alongside our Meditation Rooms in new buildings. Microsoft now makes all-gender restrooms standard alongside traditional single-gender restrooms in all new buildings. These were originally promoted by the transgender community, but it didn't take long for us to understand that all-gender bathrooms represent a privacy enhancement for all of us. Unlike other sorts of facilities, restrooms are used by everyone. The lack of acoustical and, to some degree, visual privacy in traditional restrooms helped to compel the addition of all-gender choices. We are also enhancing traditional restrooms with more private doors. It's yet another example of accommodations that might originate with one group, but that ultimately benefit a much larger pool of employees and visitors. That's inclusivity at its best – and it's what we at Microsoft are striving every day not just to deliver, but to improve upon. Martha Clarkson is manager of the Experience Design program for Microsoft's Real Estate and Facilities group and is responsible for inclusive workplace- design strategies. Brian Collins, senior manager of Real Estate & Facilities for Microsoft, is responsible for leading the company's Workplace Employee Engagement, Supported Employment, and Change Management programs.

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