Banishing Barriers: Building Disability Awareness into Recruiting

A woman in a wheelchair working at the office

People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world, at about one billion people and 15% of the global population. The disability community has often struggled with unemployment and finding good jobs due to bias and a lack of awareness among employers — but the tide appears to be turning.

Hiring is up across the board in today’s tight labour market, which includes groups who were overlooked in the past. This helps those on both sides of the hiring equation: more job seekers with disabilities are getting hired, and employers benefit from a promising talent pool.

However, there’s still lots of room for improvement. People with a disability have both lower labour force participation (53.4%) and higher unemployment rates (10.3%) than people without a disability (84.1% and 4.6% respectively). October 3 is International Day of People With a Disability so it’s a good time for employers and recruiters not only to reflect on what they can do to reduce bias and increase opportunities, but also to take action. By building disability awareness into recruiting, your company can make a commitment to accessibility and make inclusion part of its culture — and attract, hire and retain more of these workers in the process.

Diversity includes disability

The disability community is incredibly diverse, encompassing people with a wide variety of diagnoses — including physical disabilities, learning disabilities, blindness, autism, deafness, anxiety and chronic pain. Since many of these are “invisible” conditions, disability is much more common than it might appear. It is often impossible to tell if a person has a disability simply by looking at them. What’s more, many of us could experience a disability at some point in our lives — whether short-term or permanent.

There are over 2 million working-age adults with disabilities in Australia today, making this a huge talent pool. To attract these job seekers, first ensure that your company meets — or exceeds — accessibility standards. With this baseline in place, you can reference it in your company’s job descriptions to demonstrate your commitment to inclusion. This helps ensure that practices, procedures and work sites are accessible to all current and potential hires.

Many of the world’s largest companies are also recognised as its most disability-friendly workplaces. For example, Microsoft demonstrated its commitment to disability inclusion by introducing a variety of hiring initiatives. These include its Autism Hiring Program, which creates new opportunities for job seekers with autism spectrum disorders, as well as Ability Hiring Events, bringing job seekers with disabilities together with specialized hiring teams. Similarly, Ford Motors and software company SAP are sourcing candidates with autism for specialised tech roles.  

Another great way to attract job seekers with disabilities is to prioritise awareness among current employees. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are used by companies to celebrate and support employee diversity, including those with disabilities. These groups help raise awareness for the community and demonstrate inclusivity to potential candidates.

Hewlett Packard and Ford Motors both have strong ERGs focused on workers with disabilities, providing an important space for these employees to connect with, advocate for and mentor new or potential hires. Here at Indeed, our Access Indeed Inclusion Resource Group is an employee-led effort to promote inclusion and education and help build an environment where workers of all abilities can thrive.

Remove barriers to attract new job seekers

If your company wants to hire more workers with disabilities, it’s important to assess current application and hiring practices. If they’re not accessible, what can you do to fix them?

First, review your job descriptions. Think carefully before including requirements that could exclude candidates with different types of disabilities and that might not be necessary for the job. Ask yourself: Which requirements could a candidate lack and still be able to excel in this role? Research shows that many strong candidates will not apply for a position if they feel they don’t meet all the required qualifications, so be sure descriptions match reality.

Second, check all aspects of your company’s job application page to ensure they’re accessible. Will a screen reader be able to read the text aloud for an applicant with a visual disability? Do images include descriptions? If applicants are instructed or encouraged to watch any company videos or tutorials, are they captioned? Implementing these types of accessibility measures in the application stage is crucial for recruitment.

Third, make sure all evaluation activities, including interviews and assessments, are fully accessible. It’s impossible to properly evaluate a candidate unless they have the necessary accommodations to complete a task, so ensure your company has a clear, easy-to-find statement about providing reasonable disability accommodations for employees and applicants.

For example, a candidate might need additional time for an in-office test or benefit from large-print copies of materials. And don’t forget that the spaces used for interviews and assessments must be physically accessible, such as having elevators nearby or conference rooms with space for a wheelchair.

These are easy, free or low-cost accommodations that can make or break a candidate’s experience — and failing to implement them can lead companies to miss out on stellar applicants.

Disability awareness is a win-win

As more job seekers with disabilities are hired, employers are seeing great potential in this large and sometimes overlooked talent pool. In turn, this is an excellent time for companies to foster a disability-inclusive culture — both to nurture current employees and to become a top destination for job seekers.

To make your company stand out, establish targeted recruiting initiatives for candidates with disabilities and ensure an accessible recruitment process for all. Because when companies hire workers with disabilities, everyone wins.

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