Companies should always try to hire the best talent they can find regardless of disability, according to Barbara Otto, CEO of Chicago-based Health & Disability Advocates, which spearheads Think Beyond the Label, a national advocacy group working to increase employment of people with disabilities among small- and medium-sized businesses. Otto offered these additional recommendations:
- Get "buy-in" from the top to establish a more inclusive (or disability-friendly) workplace — this is key to making a real impact.
- Include progress toward hiring goals for people with disabilities in performance appraisals of senior management; incorporate explicit language about hiring people with disabilities in diversity and inclusion plans; and expect senior management to demonstrate a strong commitment to disability recruitment and hiring.
- As for job candidates, first and foremost, ensure that the candidate is going to be able to perform the job.
- Be knowledgeable about the types of accommodations that can be offered, which can range from low tech to high tech, and other accommodations like flexible schedules.
- Educate staff about inclusiveness and why it’s critical to the company. Build strong employee networks that encourage people with disabilities to express their issues and try to make the workplace a better environment for everyone.
- Consider conducting company-wide training on inclusiveness. Include topics such as disability-friendly language, etiquette, and inclusive work habits like introducing yourself on a conference call before speaking so that people who are hard of hearing or deaf (and may be using an interpreter) can identify the speaker.
- Give employees with disabilities the same orientation and training given to others within the group so that every employee is prepared to be challenged and succeed.
- Include employees with disabilities in cross-training, just as other members of the team are included. Employees with disabilities will become more enthusiastic about putting their new skills to good use, and the company will gain a more qualified and well-rounded team.
Otto also stressed that the company must be fully accessible to potential candidates. For example, can candidates submit resumes if they are blind? Can they use a keyboard instead of a mouse to submit their resume? Can candidates ask for an accommodation during their interview? Can they access any testing requirements at facilities during the interview? If the HR online system and processes are not fully accessible and recruiters are not trained to accommodate people with disabilities, the employer is sending a message that it does not value this particular group.
Source: Myth buster: The case for hiring individuals with disabilities, Labor Law Reports: Insight, Issue 1779, November 28, 2012; Think Beyond the Label, http://www.thinkbeyondthelabel.com.