7 Disability Inclusion Strategies For Your Workplace And Hiring Process

by | Aug 24, 2021

Our world may cater to the abled majority, but our businesses don’t have to follow the same pattern. Just by promoting disability inclusion in your team culture, you can increase your talent pool and create a friendlier work environment that reduces turnover.

Disabilities can take many forms. Some are visible, while others — such as depression, dyslexia and chronic pain — often remain invisible. Because of this, disabilities are often forgotten in efforts to increase diversity in the workplace.

Unfortunately, just because you as an employer don’t see a disability doesn’t mean it’s not there. In fact, disabilities are more common than you think.

In the United States alone, there are 61 million adults with disabilities — only 9 million of which qualify for disability benefits. At the same time, only 19.3% of people with disabilities are actually employed, showing that too much talent within this population has gone unnoticed by employers across the U.S.

If you want to attract top talent and encourage them to stay, keep reading for our top disability inclusion strategies below.

Four tips for creating a disability-friendly hiring process

Disability inclusion starts in the hiring process. Your job listing and interview process may actually be weeding out great applicants, whether you know it or not. These four tips will help you be more mindful about people with disabilities, so you can grow a more diverse team:

1. Remove unnecessary requirements

Have you ever applied to a desk job with a significant lifting requirement? If so, you’re not alone. Just searching “25 pounds” on Ziprecruiter leads to over 950 listings for jobs titles like “finance director” and “secretary.”

Unless your finance director is required to carry around an average-sized two-year-old on a daily basis, hauling 25 pounds probably shouldn’t be part of their job description.

While some of us may quickly skim past seemingly basic requirements — which may also include minimum typing speeds and a driver’s license — many people with disabilities may avoid applying to jobs that set physical limitations. Dropping requirements that won’t significantly affect a person’s performance or safety can help you get more diverse applicants.

Even if a listed demand is essential (and therefore, is ADA-compliant), we recommend getting specific about why and what accommodations may be provided. It’s OK if physical requirements are a must, but details can help more people determine if a job is a good fit.

2. Make inclusion initiatives public

Whereas some job requirements may discourage some skilled professionals, a culture of inclusion will encourage a more diverse applicant pool.

If you have an active disability inclusion initiative, make it known. Your potential applicants will see that they’ll be fully supported by your company and included in your culture. This may give them the warm fuzzies and, more importantly, drive them to take the next step.

3. Use alt text

If any of your web pages (especially your job listings) include images, make them accessible by adding alt text.

Alt text is an image description that can be added when you upload any photo or graphic to your site. While alt text isn’t visible, people with visual impairments or learning disabilities need it for their screen readers to tell them — in speech or in braille — what’s going on in an image.

When posting about a job listing on social media, alt text can still be added onto images. Most major social media sites let you add alt text before and/or after posting, though this feature is limited to desktop for LinkedIn. On Twitter, you may need to turn on image descriptions in your accessibility settings first.

We also recommend adding captions to videos to make application and onboarding processes more accessible to people with hearing disabilities.

4. Allow accommodations

As you’re inviting job candidates to interviews, be willing to be flexible. People with disabilities may request video calls and longer interview times or request the presence of interpreters.

There’s no harm in approving reasonable requests — after all, they’re not asking to skip the interview altogether. In fact, doing so can create a more equitable hiring process that gives diverse applicants equal footing.

Want to take your disability inclusion up a notch? Create an accommodation request form like Microsoft, so applicants feel supported and don’t feel awkward asking you directly.

Three ways to promote disability inclusion in the workplace

Disability inclusion isn’t a performance. Once a new hire is on your team, they should feel just as supported as they did in your hiring process. Here are three best practices for building a disability-friendly workplace:

1. Offer flexible schedules

People with disabilities may use more sick hours than the average person — and not for secret vacations like the rest of us crooks. Not every small business can promise long-term disability benefits right away, but there are smaller ways we can meet the needs of people with disabilities.

Giving all your employees some flexibility with their schedule — perhaps by allowing remote work or makeup hours when needed — can help people with disabilities make doctor’s appointments, take mental health days and recover at home. Never penalize an employee for prioritizing their health.

Some workplaces even offer an unlimited vacation policy to increase flexibility (and disability inclusion). If getting the job done is more important than scheduling, consider this for your team.

2. Require diversity and inclusion training

We all have implicit biases that we may not be aware of. Offering and requiring diversity and inclusion training in your workplace — with a specific program dedicated to disability inclusion — can help you build and retain diverse talent.

This type of training will show your team what it means to use inclusive language and understand how to communicate with people using aids or interpreters. It can also help you shape your disability inclusion policies.

3. Offer accommodations

Don’t stop making accommodations after the hiring process. Your job as a leader is to help your entire team do their job — even if someone needs an extra boost like a voice assistant or a wheelchair-accessible desk.

Make sure to be discreet about an accommodation when possible. Some employees may not be comfortable explaining why they have a new device or letting the greater team know they have a disability.

Increase disability inclusion beyond the workplace

As you continue making your workplace more disability-friendly, let that commitment expand outside of your team. Start consulting people with disabilities within and outside your team to see how you can create accessible products or services and build inclusion in your marketing.

At the heart of disability inclusion is helping every team member thrive and treating every person as a valued human.

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