People with disabilities make up approximately one fifth of the population of the UK. That makes them the largest group of those usually included under the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) umbrella and a huge proportion of a business’s potential market.
Despite this, disabled people are also one of the most underrepresented groups in the employment space with an employment rate 28.8% lower than non-disabled people. For businesses, that means 28.8% less input on business decisions from people who represent one fifth of the market. The figures are stark and underline the importance to DE&I leaders of making disabled people a focus of their efforts.
Let’s look at some practical ways employers can make the recruitment process more inclusive of, and appealing to, people with disabilities.
Making job posts more inclusive
Improving accessibility and inclusivity for job interviews
Supporting disabled employees with onboarding
First off, you should talk about the efforts you make to create an inclusive culture at your business within the job post, rather than tagging on as a disclaimer in italics at the end. Make sure it’s clear that welcoming talent of all kinds is part of your employer brand and back it up with real substance. If you’re saying that you take DE&I seriously as a business, show how you demonstrate that. Perhaps you have work from home options that would be especially attractive to those with mobility issues. Or maybe you run diversity focus groups or peer sharing groups. If you don’t currently do any of these things, you should consider starting right away.
Another thing to be aware of is that many people with disabilities, who often lack confidence in the job market due to their underrepresentation and lack of role models, aim low when applying for jobs and are easily deterred in the application process. That’s why job descriptions made up of exhaustive, jargon-filled lists of desired and essential criteria should be avoided. Whereas non-disabled applicants might apply for a job despite not meeting every criteria, those with disabilities–who might already feel that the odds are stacked against them–might deselect themselves based on an obscure criteria that few applicants meet. And your organisation will miss out on some potentially great talent.
People with disabilities, like anyone else, want to read engaging job copy that tells them what they need to know and assures them that you’re an employer worth their time (and, with people spending an average of 14 seconds reading job descriptions, time is precious). So, although this advice is aimed at helping you attract more disabled talent, it could improve your recruitment process for everyone. Then again, that’s the whole point of DE&I.
Is the location of your job interviews accessible for everyone? You don’t want to lose a potentially ideal applicant because you haven’t made a few simple arrangements that will enable everyone to attend. The onus is on you as an employer to make the necessary adjustments so that interviews are accessible for everyone. Rather saying that adjustments can be made for disabled applicants, take proactive steps and offer assurances so that any accessibility anxieties can be assuaged. If a candidate is unable to attend the interview, you could offer a video interview. In an era when so much work is done digitally, it might actually make more sense.
To make sure your recruitment process is as inclusive as possible, reach out to existing employees with disabilities (if you aren’t one of them). Their perspective will highlight potential issues that might not occur to others who don’t face accessibility issues day to day and put your business ahead of the competition when it comes to sourcing talent among those with disabilities.
The onboarding process is an opportunity to welcome new employees, familiarise them with your employer brand and help them feel part of the team. For employees with disabilities, that can be especially important, which is why you should make sure your onboarding process is serving its purpose.
Think about your onboarding materials and assess their suitability for people with disabilities. Better still, create a focus group made up of existing employees with disabilities to work through your onboarding process and report back with their feedback. This can highlight issues that non-disabled people might be unaware of and help you to think about onboarding materials in new ways.
You should also think about the format of your onboarding materials. It’s often taken as read that they consist of a few written pamphlets and perhaps some online content, however, people with visual impairments or dyslexia, for example, might be better served by audio or video onboarding materials. That doesn’t mean the end for great written onboarding materials but, rather, diversify them in order to accommodate everyone.
The content of your onboarding materials is also important. Put new disabled employees at ease by stating your willingness to make arrangements to accommodate people with different needs. What’s more, make sure that training is in place so that, when people with disabilities visit your organisation, existing employees know how to meet the promises of your onboarding materials and accommodate disabled people without making them feel like they stand out. That way, you’ll shift focus from a candidate’s disabilityt o the talent that they will bring to your organisation.
Looking for something else to read? Check out our blog post about overview of disability inclusion in the workplace.