Employers are becoming increasingly aware and invested in diversity in the workplace. From marketing to recruitment to interviewing, there are many steps you can take to make your hiring practices and work environment more appealing and accommodating for all job seekers—including those with disabilities.
Even though candidates with disabilities are just as hard-working and productive as people without developmental or intellectual disabilities, only 22.36% are gainfully employed. Compare that to 67% of people without disabilities. The unemployment rate of people with disabilities is 9%—well above the national average of 4.4%
These numbers are not reflective of the capabilities of people with disabilities. Rather, they reflect the barriers that are currently in place within the job search and talent acquisition process. If your company culture includes a dedication to diversity and inclusion, make sure that includes disability inclusion.
There are several steps you can take to successfully hire people with disabilities into job positions where they can excel and bring value to your company.
The legal definition of “workplace disability” is “a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on [a person’s] ability to do normal daily activities.”
There are many different types and causes of disability and the symptoms and severity vary widely from person to person. Some people are born with a disability, while others have experienced an illness or accident. Regardless of the type or visibility of a disability, remember that every person will have different needs and accommodation requirements.
A huge part of appropriate and inclusive disability employment is creating a space for open discussion. You’ll never be able to completely prepare your work environment and processes to accommodate every disability ahead of time. Instead, true inclusivity is about listening to the individual, asking about their needs, and working to accommodate those needs on an organization-wide basis.
That being said, there are many steps you can take to ensure that employees with disabilities are happy, healthy, and productive in their positions.
1. Take Advantage of Available Resources
There are several agencies and non-profits that specialize in helping people with disabilities find and retain meaningful employment. Look into your local resources, such as:
- Vocational Rehabilitation Centers
- Centers for Independent Living
- The Job Accommodation Network
- American Job Centers
- State Departments of Labor
- State Governors’ Offices on Employment of People with Disabilities
- National Industries for the Blind
There may also be specific non-profits in your area with similar missions. Get in touch with these agencies about posting to their job boards or using their employee referral programs. You should also promote your partnerships with these organizations during the recruiting process. It makes your company much more approachable for candidates with disabilities.
2. Review Your Recruitment Materials
Another important step you can take as a company is to review your recruitment materials and company branding to ensure that you are representing an inclusive and accommodating company culture. This means including a visual representation of people with disabilities as well as language about your inclusivity policies and efforts.
Make sure that your website, your job postings, your recruitment emails and LinkedIn messages, and your advertisements all project the message you’re trying to convey.
Limit unnecessary restrictions and job requirements such as “must be able to lift 20 pounds” that can be intimidating. Unless you’re hiring for a stocking or factory position, does your employee really need to be able to perform manual labor? Replace this language with encouraging diversity statements such as “people of all abilities are welcome to apply.”
3. Recruit Remotely
In a post-COVID job search landscape, video interviews have become incredibly common. For some people with disabilities, this is a boon. Whether physical disabilities make it difficult to travel or mental disabilities make in-person interviews particularly distressing, switching to video, email, and text communications in the interview process can make it much more accessible. Providing the opportunity to submit video resumes can help people who have difficulty typing. Providing space for email and text interviews allows those with speech impediments and verbal communication or hearing difficulties to apply comfortably.
Remember, everyone is different. Inclusivity isn’t something you can “do” once. It’s about providing options and keeping an open mindset to ensure that you don’t miss out on a fantastic employee because you’re tied to your current hiring process.
4. Educate Your Existing Employees
Inclusivity isn’t an HR initiative. It is a company culture that lives or dies with your employees. You can’t just train your hiring managers and recruiters and change your policies. True inclusivity means educating and training all employees in your organization, from executives down to interns.
Familiarity desensitizes people. If they become accustomed to the changes you’re making in your company ahead of time, the workplace will be much more comfortable for people with disabilities. Hold regular town halls about any accommodations and changes in policy you’ll be making. Organize sensitivity training and disability etiquette. Allow questions and be completely transparent about the reasons for your changes.
Just make sure that you are not singling out one employee. Don’t say things like: “We’re changing the workflow so Kevin can handle it more easily.” Instead, use anonymous and inclusive language such as: “It’s been brought to our attention that this process may be difficult for non-neurotypical people. We’re changing it to make it more accessible for all of our employees.”
5. Highlight Accessibility
When you’re creating job positions and communicating with possible candidates, make sure that you’re highlighting your accessibility efforts. Make sure that you’re highlighting the benefits and accommodations you can offer to potential employees with disabilities. For instance:
- Proximity to public transportation
- Accessible floor plans
- Flexible work hours
- Remote work options
- Quiet spaces for working (especially if you have an open floor plan)
- Wheelchair ramps, accessible elevators, accessible restrooms, etc.
- Accessible application process (video, text, email, etc.)
- Ability to bring interpreter or aide to work
- Accommodations for support animals
There are dozens of other accommodations and accessibility benefits you can offer to draw in potential candidates. You put a lot of thought and effort into making your space and hiring process more inclusive—make sure you’re getting the highest possible ROI by advertising those changes to candidates.
If you have questions about how to make your workplace more accessible to people with disabilities, contact Easterseals Arkansas today. We’d love to talk to you about partnering with our programs.