Why National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) Matters
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, 17.9% of individuals with disabilities were employed, compared to 61.8% of individuals who didn’t report a disability. That’s a stark disparity, especially when you take into consideration that fostering a diverse, inclusive workforce is good for business—a study of companies that embraced disability inclusion found those that do have 28% higher revenue!
Research shows that embracing diversity of all types is good for business.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is celebrated every October to “commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy.” We also celebrate NDEAM to raise awareness that this discrepancy exists between employed individuals with disabilities and those with no disabilities.
Embracing diversity and inclusion in your workforce is the right thing to do, and with stats like 28% higher revenue, you’d think companies would be bending over backward to ensure they have an inclusive, accessible workforce. Sadly, that’s not our reality. A survey by the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology on online job applications found 46% of respondents said their last attempt to apply for a job online was “difficult to impossible.” Of those, 9% were unable to finish the application, and 24% required help.
While many resources are available for making your workplace accessible for individuals with disabilities, the hiring process is often overlooked and remains a barrier to getting those individuals in the door. In honor of NDEAM, we’re sharing ten tips for making your hiring practices more inclusive and accessible for individuals with disabilities.
According to a 2018 Accenture study of 140 U.S. companies that touted the economic value of a diverse workforce, companies with strong disability and inclusion programs had higher revenue, higher net income, and returned more to shareholders than companies without such programs.
10 Ways to Make Your Hiring Practices More Inclusive and Accessible
1) Make Sure Your Platform is Accessible
While we could write an entire blog dedicated to website accessibility best practices, that’s not our area of expertise. UC Berkeley and DreamHost have excellent, in-depth guides to ensuring web accessibility, but the gold standard is the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
2) Make Accessibility Part of Your Hiring Strategy
Accessibility shouldn’t just be something that’s on your mind during NDEAM or when you come across a piece of accessibility content like this post. To enact real change, it needs to be a well-thought-out, well-defined part of your hiring strategy. Consider what barriers your process has for people with disabilities. Think about how you can attract more individuals with disabilities to apply. Reassess your approach to accessibility regularly to ensure you’re keeping up to date with best practices.
10% of the US population and 96% of individuals with chronic medical conditions have an “invisible” disability, one that’s not readily apparent by looking at them. This statistic is helpful to keep in mind when assessing your accessibility practices.
3) Be Clear You’re Open to Individuals With Disabilities In Your Workforce
A 2019 study found only 39% of individuals with disabilities felt comfortable disclosing their disability to their manager. Showing that you’re the kind of company that actively wants individuals with disabilities as part of your workforce should not only get more individuals with disabilities to apply to open positions but help them feel comfortable advocating for their needs from the start.
- Be explicit about your intentions: There’s no need to be coy. Explicitly say you want individuals with disabilities to be part of your workforce. Include them in your diversity statement, create a success story featuring a differently-abled employee, and share disability advocacy and accessibility facts on social media. Go out of your way to let individuals with disabilities know that you want them to share their talents with your organization.
- Choose language with purpose: A disability is something someone has, not who they are. Don’t say “disabled person” or “the disabled.” Instead, say “individual with a disability” or “differently-abled.” Language matters and there are plenty of style guides, including guides to ensure yours is inclusive—the National Center on Disability and Journalism guide is especially robust.
- Showcase a differently-abled workforce: Your website is the first exposure many have of your organization, so use that to your advantage! Employ stock photos including individuals with disabilities on your website, blog, and social media—and not just in conjunction with content about individuals with disabilities.
4) Put Individuals With Disabilities On Your Hiring Teams
Include employees with disabilities on your hiring team. Individuals with disabilities have completed your application and interview process and can speak to what worked, what didn’t, and what would’ve made the process easier for them.
5) Offer Accommodations
Asking for accommodations can be stressful. Eliminate stress for your job candidates from the get-go by asking them what type of interview process would help them put their best foot forward. Some ways you can do this include:
- Straight-up asking, “Is there anything we can do to accommodate you so that you have all the tools necessary to nail this interview?”
- Giving candidates the option of answering questions in a written format versus over the phone.
- Providing candidates the choice of flexible interview times.
- If hard time constraints aren’t necessary for the position (we know they are for some), let candidates know to take as much time as they need to gather their thoughts before answering a question.
6) Offer Remote Interviews (and Remote Work)
Remote interviews remove the barriers associated with navigating a brick-and-mortar office. They allow job candidates to interview from an environment they’re comfortable with, in a way that doesn’t highlight their disability (unless they wish to do so, obviously). Take this a step further and advertise on your posting that the interview process will be virtual—you may get more candidates by doing this. Make sure to let virtual applicants know you’ll offer any tech/virtual accommodations they need to make the process successful.
Offering the option of remote work is a surefire way to increase the number of individuals with disabilities in your applicant traffic. HiringThing has been remote since our 2012 founding, so we know a thing or two about working from anywhere! Do you want to offer remote work options at your organization but don’t know where to start? Check out the HiringThing Remote Work Hub.
7) Target Your Hiring
Do you want individuals with disabilities to know about your job postings? Then tell them about them! Target these individuals when you’re advertising open positions by posting on job boards that work with individuals with disabilities or partnering with disability rights organizations. The U.S. Department of Labor and National Center on Disability and Journalism have excellent databases of organizations you can work with.
8) Remove Barriers/Unnecessary Restrictions
How many office job postings have you seen that include a variation of the phrase “must be capable of lifting 25 pounds?” Quite a few, now that you think of it, right? When disability-rights activist David M. Perry investigated this for an article, he found that 60% of higher education jobs included this “qualification,” peculiar since higher-education jobs aren’t known for their manual labor. Do job candidates need to lift anything for your position? Do they need to be able to stand for a specified amount of hours? Some positions have obvious physical requirements but don’t arbitrarily include them on a job posting if it’s not necessary for a role.
9) Focus on Abilities During the Interview Process
Why would you go into a job application focusing on the negative? Interviews with a candidate with a disability should mirror a candidate with no disability—focus on abilities, not detriments. What can a candidate bring to the table? How can they help a company grow? What new perspectives can they offer? Ideas do they have? How can you work with the candidate to implement their ideas? Keep things focused on the positives—you move people to interview rounds for positive reasons.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it unlawful to ask an individual about their disability during the job interview process—the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is an excellent resource if you need examples of questions you can’t ask.
10) Be Ready to Change
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth highlighting. People get attached to doing things one way, and the reality is that different people need to do things differently to be successful (that’s not even disability-specific). Give your workforce the tools to succeed by being flexible, adaptable, and open to change. Change your thinking from “how will this person fit into our way of doing things” to “how can I help this person help us grow?”
Hiring is just the first step of employment, so keep in mind that any changes to make your hiring practices more inclusive and accessible should extend to your entire organization. Similarly, disability inclusion is something all your employees should understand. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers a comprehensive “Disability Etiquette” guide we’d implore you to share with everyone at your organization.
The HiringThing Advantage
HiringThing is committed to making hiring seamless for everyone, which we call our patented Hiring Happiness®! What’s our secret? Great technology, superior implementation, and outstanding customer support.
Our award-winning ATS combines flawless integration with professional customization to empower HiringThing users to grow their teams and businesses. Want to see for yourself? Start a free trial today.
Author: Pat Brothwell
Pat Brothwell is a content marketer at HiringThing, an award-winning online recruiting software provider dedicated to changing the way businesses hire talent. Questions? Contact HiringThing Marketing.