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Support employment for people with disabilities: 5 inclusive hiring tips


By ensuring your hiring practices encourage employment for people with disabilities, you can gain access to an often-untapped labor pool. In fact, making your company disability inclusive could help your business grow.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 8 percent in 2018, more than twice the rate of those with no disability.

How does your company attract and hire candidates with disabilities who may be the perfect fit for your employment needs?

Defining disabilities

Building an inclusive workforce means being open-minded to the diverse population of people with disabilities.

Disabilities often include difficulties with vision, hearing and the ability to walk or climb stairs. But the definition goes farther than many realize.

Variations in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention and mood, known as neurodiversity, are also recognized as disabilities.

Neurodiversity includes:

  • Dyslexia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • The autism spectrum

Being disability inclusive and tapping into the strengths of workers on the autism spectrum can bring benefits to your workforce.

Viewing a disability as just a difference, like culture, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, expands workforce diversity. Managing a diverse employee population that includes persons with disabilities can generate better business ideas, more productivity and higher-quality service.

Here are five ways to make your hiring process more inclusive and expand your workforce.

Adjusting your hiring process to promote employment for people with disabilities

1. Review your infrastructure

Be sure your business has the infrastructure to support and accommodate employment for people with disabilities. Is your location accessible? Do you offer accessible parking?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities to help them perform the essential functions of their position if the accommodation doesn’t cause undue hardship on business operations. Adjustments might include relocating a work station for easier access or offering flexible hours.

Ensure staff are trained regarding the ADA, its requirements and how to identify discrimination issues.

Infrastructure changes and training will make it easier to recruit and hire employees with disabilities. They might also make it easier to retain employees with chronic illness or those working with mental illness.

2. Change your language

To attract and hire people with disabilities, speak with inclusion. Knowing how to sensitively refer to members of diverse groups, including people with disabilities, is key.

The ADA defines an individual with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. But the word impairment can be offensive. Though it may be used in legal contexts, many people with disabilities don’t see themselves as damaged, but simply different.

Is the language in your job postings inclusive to those with disabilities? Do your job descriptions take those with disabilities into consideration?

For instance, mention that the position is open to all professionals, including those with disabilities. If the position may be performed by those with intellectual or cognitive disabilities, include that language.

When crafting job descriptions and job postings;

  • Put the person first: a disability is what someone has, not what someone is.
  • Never say “a disabled person” or “the disabled.”
  • Instead, say a person or people “with disabilities.”

Adopting a vocabulary that feels respectful to everyone is the most inclusive course to follow.

Accommodation is another word to reconsider. It conveys a specific legal meaning and should be used in certain contexts. However, the word suggests doing a favor for the person who has a disability, rather than a workplace or work-process modification made to enable an employee to be more productive. Consider using the terms “adjustment” or “modification” when legal terminology isn’t required.

3. Broaden your recruiting

When filling positions, expand how and where you share your job postings. Posting positions where people with disabilities can find them will make opportunities more visible.

  • Share job openings with nonprofits, agencies and organizations that work with people with disabilities in your area, as well as American Job Centers and Centers for Independent Living.
  • Post open positions to websites that target job candidates with disabilities.
  • List open jobs with organizations that work with veterans with disabilities.
  • Feature job openings through social media, online and in blogs. Be sure to feature keywords that will help candidates with disabilities find the opportunity.

4. Modify your application process

Is your application process accessible to those with disabilities? If you rely on an online application system, people with disabilities must be able to navigate the system. To ensure workers with disabilities can easily apply for open positions, adjust the process.

  • If an applicant can’t see the information on the site, they should be able to hear it.
  • Website navigation should allow both mouse and keyboard accessibility so people can easily use the site.
  • Information should be presented in clear, simple language and laid out in a way that makes sense.

Allow people to apply in a variety of ways, including through assistive technologies such as the telecommunication relay service. However, alternative systems force candidates to disclose their need for an accommodation, alerting potential employers to their disability. Some candidates may then feel discouraged about applying, so an accessible online application is the most inclusive option.

5. Interview as normal

All job candidates should be treated respectfully, fairly and equally, answering the same questions to help determine the best candidate for the position. Individuals with disabilities want to be treated fairly. They don’t want to be treated differently.

The ADA prohibits asking disability-related questions before a job offer is made. To provide equal job opportunities for candidates with disabilities through the interview process:

  • Be sure that employment offices and interviewing locations are accessible to persons with a variety of disabilities.
  • Focus on the applicants’ qualifications, not disability, and don’t ask questions about a candidate’s disability.
  • Ask job-related questions that you would ask any candidate, such as, “How would you perform this particular task?”
  • Inform applicants ahead of time if they will be asked to take a test. This allows them to request a reasonable accommodation, if necessary.
  • Allow applicants to request reasonable accommodations so they can participate in the interview, such as requesting assistance in completing forms, or asking for a sign language interpreter to facilitate communication.

Finding the right staffing mix means casting a wide net to find the best candidates for every position. Supporting employment for people with disabilities ensures your company isn’t missing out.

For more information on how to attract, recruit and hire talent, download our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to attract, retain, recruit and hire talent.