Fostering a diverse work environment is an increasingly valued business practice, with cross-vertical initiatives to hire more minorities and empower women to step into leadership roles. But diversity doesn’t stop at gender and ethnicity. It’s crucial for forward-thinking businesses to consider how people with different disabilities can further enhance and diversify their corporate population and outcomes. Studies show that diverse management results in increased revenue by 19%. Incorporating people with disabilities into your workforce means that your consumer reach can be more informed and account for the 16% of the population that has a disability. That’s a pretty large percentage of the population to unintentionally exclude, but missing out on that consumer market is totally avoidable. But you'll need a team that reflects society, and that includes people with disabilities.
Technology advances at an unprecedented pace, bringing talented individuals with varying disabilities to the playing field for key employment roles. In the past, a person with a mobility disability might have never considered taking a corporate role in an office. But today, there’s no reason that someone who uses a wheelchair shouldn’t be able to bring their unique perspective, talent, and skillset to the office.
“Individuals with disabilities are pervasive in our culture. And ultimately, they’re the third-largest market in the world. So investing in the future of an individual with disabilities is investing in your local economy. Individuals with disabilities have money to spend, so if you're investing in their business or investing in their future in the workplace, there’s gonna be more money in the local economies and less reliance on social systems. So it's a win-win situation for everyone.”
- Peter DeHaas, San Francisco Disability Business Alliance
If you’re ready to hire top talent and don’t want applicants to be deterred due to disabilities, you can get started by hosting accessible and inclusive interviews. Here are some top tips from both business experts and disability-focused nonprofit leaders.
Make sure all systems are go
Before you start scheduling interviews with candidates that have disabilities, we would be remiss not to reiterate that you’ll need an accessible employment environment. accessiBe’s own Global VP HR, Revital Tobias says that the best way to ensure successful hiring and retention of talent with disabilities is to get L&D involved from the beginning. Learning and Development professionals are your company’s best internal resource for employee development - and that includes new demographics that you’re looking to integrate into your workforce.
Some important questions to ask are:
- Do we have accessible employee systems?
- Do we communicate internally in an accessible way?
- Is our organization accessible physically with the right space, layout, and assistive technology?
- Is our company culture inclusive, welcoming, and open to working with people that are different?
“When you open your company up to a new demographic you have to think about what would attract them to your company. To recruit someone successfully, you really need to understand their day-to-day. What do they want to be doing and how can you enable them to do it? In the process of interviewing someone with a disability you might realize that you are lacking in knowledge about their disability and that in order to really set them up for success and your company up for a long-term hire, you need to do some research and preparation first.”
- Revital Tobias, Global VP HR, accessiBe
Once you’ve covered the preliminary questions and gotten your organization into a place that’s ready for success with a fully diverse workforce, you can begin the recruitment process and include potential candidates with disabilities.
Be flexible and be direct
If you’re opening your hiring process to a diverse demographic, there will be no cookie-cutter way to have a conversation and get the information you need to move forward. The recruiter or hiring manager who speaks to the candidate needs to be highly receptive, communicative, and have high emotional intelligence. If that’s you, then here are some pointers for a successful conversation with a candidate with a disability from Rick Christensen from Employment Solutions Inc:
- Ask directly which format is more comfortable: on the phone or in person
- Avoid stereotypes and forget about your assumptions. Try to just get to know the person.
- Openly discuss the job requirements and their skillset and don’t be afraid to ask questions
- Consider the candidates that may not have the educational requirements but do have hands-on experience
- Consider being more accommodating with hours
People with disabilities are just as valuable and competent as those without. But they may need to get their work done at slightly different times or need more flexibility when it comes to commuting. Remember that like any candidate, you want to discover strengths as well as weaknesses so ask direct questions that indicate a culture of transparency and openness.
“Get to know the person, before the disability. Be okay with asking off-the-cuff questions, and being able to improvise.”
- Jorge DeMoya, the DeMoya Foundation
In-person interview: set up the space
If you’re inviting potential hires to the office for interviews, it’s imperative that the space is set up with sensitivity so that your candidates don’t face any barriers right off the bat. You can begin with making sure the entrance to your office building is accessible, that the parking situation will be comfortable, and that in case a service dog will be joining interviews, your lobby service people are prepared and ready to welcome your candidates.
Be thoughtful in the room that candidates are asked to wait in and how your office is set up in general. People should be able to move around comfortably and easily find the restroom, water, and exits. This should be true for everyone - whether they are using a wheelchair, have a service dog, or have a sign language interpreter with them. Making these updates to your office shouldn’t be dependent on specific candidates - creating an inclusive environment at work is what will attract diverse candidates to your company and give everyone in your workforce added motivation.
“Having an accessible workplace not only empowers the individual to work hard and to be independent and successful but it actually empowers the entire workforce around them to be successful.”
- Keri Goff, Brevard Achievement Center
Online interview: follow these steps for accessibility
If you’re conducting your interviews online, you still need to have accessibility and inclusion in mind. Follow these simple steps to make sure your virtual interview will send the right message to your diverse candidates:
- Explain the meeting platform accessibility features in the meeting invite
- Send any presentations, docs, and materials beforehand in an accessible format
- When the interview begins invite candidates to enable accessibility features and give them a few minutes to do so
- Disable the chat feature or make sure to read anything that gets written out loud
- Be sensitive to audio - use headphones if you’re in a loud environment
The bottom line when it comes to communication? Be flexible. Be open to the format that is best for your candidate - the goal is to see them shine!
“We strive to make our interview process accessible and inclusive through scheduling interviews via phone or email for better visual accommodations. In addition, all interactions can be both verbal and in written communication. Furthermore, we offer interview accommodations based on their request as needed. For instance, if someone requires a sign language interpreter, we are more than happy to schedule a zoom interview which provides an interpreter. Inclusiveness within our interview process reflects different perspectives with a diverse panel and different departments within the organization.”
- Chasidy Barr, Human Resource Specialist for The Enrichment Center
Break barriers and welcome diverse top talent
You already know the vast benefits of a more diverse workplace. Now it’s up to you to get your office prepared and open the door to the many talented individuals and opportunities that are available to you.
“Accessibility is really about being creative and being a problem solver and looking beyond the narrow scope. When most people look from the business perspective they look at accessibility and they worry that it's going to cost them a lot of money. When in reality, most businesses haven't even thought about the benefit of making their business more accessible.”
- Peter DeHaas of San Francisco Disability Business Alliance