By: Krystal Freeman on October 31st, 2023

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How to Make Hiring More Accessible for Candidates with Disabilities


Every new team member needs certain things to happen before they get started. They might require an ID badge to enter the building, a computer to access your systems, and somewhere to park their car.

These onboarding tasks are essential—if you don't make it easy for people to access work, they won't be able to show off their talents and help your business grow. 

Employees with disabilities require some additional support to help get them started, but the principle is the same. As an employer, your responsibility is to remove obstacles and make life easy so that everyone can be at their best.

Unfortunately, accessibility issues often stop people with disabilities from helping the team—or even from getting hired in the first place. But with an inclusive approach to recruitment, you can build a team where everyone is free to focus on work. 

5 steps for building an accessible hiring process

First of all, what counts as a disability? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers this definition:

"A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment."

"Examples of persons with a disability under the ADA include but are not limited to autism, deafness or hearing loss, blindness or low vision, HIV, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities."

It's important to remember that disabilities can manifest in different ways and require different kinds of support. Here's how to build a hiring process that includes everyone:

1. Talk about accessibility in job descriptions

A good job description should always use inclusive language. Check with your HR team to ensure that the text avoids any terms that might seem exclusionary or off-putting to people with disabilities.

It's also a good idea to address common accessibility questions, such as:

  • Office layout, including accessible elevators and bathrooms
  • Parking spaces for special vehicles
  • Accessibility to public transport
  • Remote working options
  • Details of any physical exertion involved (such as lifting boxes or standing for long periods)
  • Types of communication involved, such as sending emails or face-to-face customer interactions
  • Timetable flexibility
  • Policy on accommodating individual worker needs

By addressing these issues upfront, you can help potential candidates understand if your company is the right fit for them.

Download the DEI Checklist

2. Train your hiring team

People with disabilities often face bias during the selection process. Biases can sometimes be unconscious, which means that the hiring team doesn't even realize that they're discriminating against certain candidates. 

The good news is that you can reduce bias with the right training. Make sure that hiring managers understand the main types of bias, such as: 

  • Stereotyping: Interviewers may assume that all members of a group have certain shared traits.
  • Ideal employee bias: Hiring managers have an idea of what their perfect candidate looks like. They may ignore someone who doesn't fit this perfect image. 
  • Beauty bias, or The Halo Effect: A person's appearance can affect the way we perceive their other qualities, such as their competence or trustworthiness. 
  • Affinity bias: People are sometimes biased towards people of the same age, gender, or educational background.

It's also helpful to educate your hiring team on practical issues, such as offering reasonable accommodations to candidates with disabilities during the hiring process.

3. Reach out to the disability community

At this point, you have written an inclusive job description and educated staff and employees participating in the interview process. Now, let's find the candidates. 

Start by posting your position on sites and job boards that attract qualified disabled candidates. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides practical solutions and guidance to employers on job accommodations and disability employment. 

JAN suggests job boards such as:

Also, each state has a vocational rehabilitation agency that provides support to individuals with mental and/or physical disabilities. These state-supported agencies provide job training and preparation to individuals seeking employment. Making your job known to agencies is an opportunity to bring in qualified talent. 

4. Offer internships

Networking and posting a job are just a few methods to attract candidates. However, putting in place an internship can also help with hiring future candidates. 

If you provide an inclusive internship program and connect with organizations that support and provide resources to members of the disabled community, there is an opportunity to create a pipeline of candidates. In addition, you will also be building your brand as an employer of choice. You could be known by these organizations as an inclusive employer and a go-to when it comes to recommending students for internship opportunities.

5. Build your brand as an accessible employer

Over time, your company will build a reputation as a place where everyone can be part of the team. You can help drive your employer brand by focusing on inclusion in everything you do. 

Some tips here include: 

  • Communications review: Work with your DE&I team to identify any issues in your external communications, including job ads and your website. Is there any language that might feel exclusionary? 
  • Website restructure: Most candidates review your website before applying for a job. Look for ways to use inclusive language and images to show that everyone is welcome in your team. 
  • Testimonials: Employee testimonials are a powerful recruitment tool. Use your website to publish testimonials from interns and employees who have had a positive experience on your team. 

The best way to build an employer brand is to live your values. Gather feedback from employees and candidates, look for ways you can do better, and keep striving to become a truly inclusive employer.

Ready to become an inclusive employer?

You'll find much support out there to help you support employees with disabilities. You may also be able to access incentives such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), Disabled Access Credit, and Barrier Removal Tax Deduction. 

On top of that, accessibility is an important issue for all employees, with 71% of people saying that they would prefer to work for a company whose values align with their own. Now that DE&I ratings are public on Glassdoor, it's more important than ever to get accessibility right. 

Need some help making your hiring process more accessible? Book a call with Helios HR today, and let's talk about how we can help you build a truly inclusive team. 

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