If you’re an employer, you know how tough it can be to find and recruit great employees. In today’s competitive labor market, it’s more challenging than ever. To make sure you have access to the widest possible talent pool, you’ll want to make sure that your hiring and onboarding processes are welcoming and inclusive to as many people as possible — including those with disabilities.
Nearly 1 in 4 people in the United States have one or more disabilities, ranging from people who are blind, visually impaired, Deaf or hard of hearing to those living with mobility impairments, chronic illness or pain – and many people in between. That’s a huge portion of the population. And yet people with disabilities are consistently employed at a lower rate than people without disabilities. According to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 63.7% of people without disabilities were employed in 2021 whereas only 19.1% of people with disabilities were.
The reasons for the gap are complex. Issues like lack of transportation, attitudes of co-workers, and an individual’s disabilities themselves may all play a role. But one thing is certain: If your hiring process poses barriers to people with disabilities, they may be less likely to apply or accept an offer. Either way, you’re missing out on qualified employees.
Ask yourself these questions to make your hiring and onboarding process more inclusive of people with disabilities:
Are you making an active effort to recruit job candidates with disabilities?
Human Resources (HR) departments everywhere have stepped up their efforts to build more diverse workforces. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are often overlooked in these initiatives. To reach a more diverse range of qualified candidates, consider posting job descriptions on recruiting websites geared toward people with disabilities, plan to attend job fairs and other events that cater to people with disabilities, and network with local organizations that serve the disabled community.
Are your job postings inclusive?
First impressions are everything. If your organization is committed to accessibility, say it outright in your job postings. Be specific about the steps you’ve taken or will take and use affirmative language that makes it clear you don’t view accessibility as a burden. For example: “We enthusiastically collaborate with our employees to make sure they have the reasonable accommodations they need to thrive in their job.”
Have employees involved in the hiring process received inclusivity training?
The way employees interact with people with disabilities during the hiring process sends an important message about your organization’s culture. And of course, nobody wants to inadvertently say something in a way that might be off-putting or hurtful. Proactive training can help prepare your team to confidently and enthusiastically engage with job candidates who have disabilities.
Are there digital barriers in your hiring practices?
The vast majority of the hiring process, from recruiting to interviewing to onboarding, happens online or via email. Make sure that every digital touchpoint can be fully accessed by all job seekers, including people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, and those with visual impairment or colorblindness, motor impairments, and cognitive impairments. Areas to consider include:
Your application process
Whether you have candidates submit applications via your website or a third-party site, make sure that the interface is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliant. Small differences in coding and design can make a big difference when it comes to accessibility.
Your documents and paperwork
It goes without saying that any documents you provide to job applicants or new hires should be available in digital, not just paper, form, so that they’re compatible with assistive technologies like screen readers. Keep in mind that some document types, like PDFs, need to be formatted in specific ways to be fully accessible.
Your video interview platform
The fact that video interviews have become more common is a boon for many people with disabilities. Be sure to look into the accessibility features, such as live captioning, of any video meeting tool you use.
Does your onboarding and orientation address accessibility?
Part of being an inclusive organization is ensuring that the “burden” of accessibility isn’t put on people with disabilities. Some people with “invisible” disabilities, like depression or sensory issues, may not want to disclose their disability, so communicating proactively is essential. Make sure that your orientation materials clearly communicate what resources and tools are available for people with disabilities (e.g. speech recognition software, adjustable desks, noise canceling headphones, etc.) and what the process is for requesting accommodations.
Become a more inclusive organization
When you build accessibility into your hiring practices, you’re not only doing the right thing; you’re automatically widening your pool of qualified applicants. Perkins Access can help you become a more inclusive organization overall – because hiring is just one facet of your organization to consider. Get in touch with one of our experts to learn more.
And for more ways to improve your organization’s accessibility, checkout The HR checklist for creating a more inclusive and accessible workplace.