How To Ensure Your Hiring Process Is Accessible For Candidates With Disabilities

Inclusion starts with hiring.

Building a diverse team means including individuals of varying races, gender identity, age, ability, and more. To be inclusive of every candidate, it’s essential to design your hiring process with careful thought and consideration to ensure it is accessible to all candidates.

The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits companies from discriminating against people with disabilities who are capable of performing the responsibilities of a job. This applies to all aspects of employment including the application, interview process, training, as well as any opportunities for further compensation or advancement.  With nearly 1 in 5 Americans living with a disability, it’s essential that the hiring process is accessible for all candidates. Inclusion starts with hiring, so here are a few ways to ensure your hiring process is accessible for candidates with disabilities.

Ensure Every Application has Optimal Accessibility

Jessica Miller-Merrell, an HR and recruiting consultant as well as founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Workology, believes an inclusive hiring process involves putting yourself in the position of candidates from different backgrounds. A great place to start is making sure that applications are accessible for all candidates. “One area that I think companies need to consider is making their career site and hiring process accessible. This means ensuring that all persons can access the application, apply appropriately, and access all resources and/or information available,” she said.

Screen reader compatibility is essential for applicants with low vision, people who are blind, and people with dyslexia. Another great way of providing optimal accessibility is by including captions on videos in consideration of applicants who may not hear well and using alt-tagging for applicants who can’t see images easily.

Confirm Office Space is Accessible for Everyone

Efforts that may seem small can go a long way in making every applicant feel included, thought of, and comfortable throughout your hiring process. Pamela Block, Ph.D., a professor of Disability Studies at Stonybrook University, says employers should consider a “universal design” in each aspect of the hiring process. In other words, each applicant should have the same experience, regardless of any mental or physical disability they may possess.

When organizing interviews, orientation sessions, or any meetings with applicants, confirm that the space will be held in an accessible location for everyone. Restroom accessibility is important too! For example, if your building does not have an elevator, consider conducting each orientation session and interview on the ground floor. Employee offices and restrooms should be accessible and comfortable for everyone.

Educate and Train Hiring Managers

The Americans With Disabilities Act states that a company cannot discriminate against disabled individuals during any point of the hiring process. It’s imperative that all hiring managers are aware of the dos and don’ts of the application, interview, and hiring process. For example, companies can’t ask anything involving physical or mental illnesses or limitations, unless they directly relate to the job description. However, you can ask if a candidate can perform essential functions of the job.

Likewise, the interview process should be “kind” to everybody, Block says. By emphasizing expectations, including appropriate breaks, and checking in with your applicant you help make the process comfortable for everyone. For example, before every interview, make a point of clarifying how the interview will be conducted (phone, in-person, Skype, etc) and inform each applicant if there will be any tests. “Ask what they need and have a discussion inviting suggestions to ensure maximum success and comfort.” Block states this is extremely important in creating a universal experience for each applicant, regardless of any present disability.  Equally important is making sure to ask this ahead of time so if any accommodations are needed they can be accommodated in time.

According to Miller-Merrell, a hiring manager should also “understand the process to follow and what to do if a job candidate asks for an accommodation.” The ADA states that any applicant that makes a request that enable them to perform the duties of the job must be honored as long as it does not cause significant difficulty or expense to the employer. For instance, most employers could provide a sign-language interpreter for a candidate with a hearing disability with little expense or trouble.

Ask for Feedback from Current Employees with a Disability

As a mentor of graduate and undergraduate students, some of whom are disabled, Block stressed the importance of asking for feedback to ensure success. This can start internally by speaking to current employers, as suggested by Miller-Merrell. If there are current employees who have shared they have a disability, consider asking for feedback on their experience through the hiring process at your company. This input is valuable and can make a big difference in making the hiring process more inclusive and accessible for all.

Likewise, consider providing a resource for employees to make suggestions on your career site. According to Miller-Merrell, Accenture has a great resource where employees can share recommendations on how they can be personally be more productive in their current roles. For example, one Accenture employee with a motor disability shared he was not able to punch in his access code to unlock his phone. Accenture was able to accommodate this request by providing the employee with a touch screen phone that unlocks with his thumbprint instead.

Additionally, by giving every employee a voice to share their concerns, you have the opportunity to grow and learn from any past mistakes. Block noted she once forgot to provide a microphone during a presentation, which made it difficult for every person to be able to understand the presentation. According to Block, this “failure” on her part is something she’s learned from, and she now tries to organize any accommodations ahead of time. Likewise, this also ensures that everyone’s opinion is valued and heard as it should be.

Show a Variety of Employee Experiences on Career Site & Recruitment Marketing

A great way of showing all potential applicants that your hiring process is accessible for candidates with disabilities is showing it on your career site and through your recruitment marketing. Block suggests that specifying your non-discriminatory and accessible viewpoints in all job ad resources will help all applicants feel included. Your language in this case is extremely important. It is important to show applicants that they are not only welcome to apply, but that you as an employer are committed to evaluating each applicant equally and without discrimination.  

“It’s the little details that really set the tone and make a difference,” Miller-Merrell says. She also suggested including personal anecdotes and stories on your company career site from people of all backgrounds, including people with disabilities in order to help make them feel “welcome and valued.”

For both Miller-Merrell and Block, establishing an open communication with current employees, potential hires, and even other companies helps ensure that your own workplace is accessible for candidates with disabilities. Miller-Merrell believes that by talking and writing about her own stories and experiences with companies that are inclusive in their hiring that she can continue learning and continue to educate others about creating a consistent experience for all. Similarly, Block claims “there is no formula…no one recipe” but that she recommends “an open dialogue” with every applicant.

To build a great team, you need to widen your talent search to all corners. By taking the time to design your hiring process in a way that is accessible to all, you can maximize the number of qualified candidates you reach by ensuring that you aren’t turning away talented candidates before or during your interview process.


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