National Disability Employment Month is celebrated in October, which is a significant month to remember because the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is twice that of people without disabilities (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). During the COVID-19 crisis, the World Health Organization estimated that roughly 1 million disabled workers in the United States have lost their jobs since March. According to a NOD survey of 200 employers, laid-off workers with disabilities may face a difficult road ahead, with many companies citing a lack of disability-inclusive cultures, particularly when looking at present accommodation systems. Now is the time for businesses to rethink their culture and seek ways to make it more disability-inclusive, not only for present employees but also for future ones. I’ve put up a list of twelve ways that employers might begin to foster a more disability-inclusive culture.
Review your Job Descriptions
The first step toward fostering a more disability-inclusive culture is to ensure that you are not discouraging candidates from applying for your open positions. Tyler Martin, Founder, and Certified Business Coach say “Review your job descriptions to ensure that the requirements are mandatory, and keep in mind that some weight/standing requirements descriptions may discourage people from applying.”
Also, make sure your website and other supporting materials are properly accessible. When it comes to job postings, you want to make sure they reach the correct people. Circa’s Diversity Recruiting Solution connects you with over 2,200 individuals with disabilities community organizations across the United States to collaborate on hiring the best candidates. In addition, community partners are pleased to talk about and give some advice about workplace accommodations.
Procedures and Policies
Review your present policies and procedures, if you haven’t already, to make sure you have clear statements regarding accommodations, inclusivity, and recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing people with disabilities at all levels of the organization. This could involve forming an employee resource group for people with disabilities to help them advance and welcome new people with impairments. You might also consider establishing a universal policy of workplace flexibility and adjustments for all applicants and workers, disabled or not. Works from home possibilities have become an increasingly popular subject among applicants, and I expect this trend to continue beyond the epidemic.
Communication is Crucial
When working with people who have disabilities, it’s crucial to keep a line of communication open. Lauren Cook-McKay, Director of Marketing & Content of Divorce Answers suggests “Employees with disabilities should be allowed to communicate about barriers and general concerns anonymously and/or privately.” Companies can use the communication to assess what they need to do to accommodate employees and move toward a more inclusive culture. Employee communication and check-ins should be a continual effort to ensure that employees not only feel heard but also have all of the tools they need to accomplish their jobs properly.
Accommodations in the Workplace
According to a poll performed by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), 50% of respondents had lodgings that cost them nothing, while the remaining respondents had an estimated one-time cost of $500 for housing. Accommodations can be cost-effective and give benefits such as increased productivity, safety, employee morale, and employee retention. When you’re just starting with accommodations, make sure you create, execute, and communicate policies about them in the workplace. If you’re not sure where to begin or what to do for lodging, you may contact Job Accommodation Network (JAN) for free information on low-cost and high-impact options.
Showcasing Your Inclusive Culture
Is your company recognized for being diverse and accommodating to employees’ needs, including those of those with disabilities? Is this reflected in the language used at your place of business? If not, you’ll need to take a look at your career page as well as your company’s overall image from the outside to change these perceptions. Jason Feldman, Founder at Immigrate Me suggests “You should underline your company’s dedication to diversity and inclusion on your career page.” Also, don’t simply say it; demonstrate it with employee images to show candidates your diversity. This is also a good area to list any inclusive perks and employee resource groups that you may have.
Lead the Way
Inclusive business culture is the bedrock of a disability-friendly workplace. The first step is to get executive leadership on board. The following are some examples of recommended practices for establishing an inclusive culture:
- The company’s strategic purpose includes making equitable employment opportunities for people with disabilities a priority.
- Putting together a team that includes executives with disabilities to help with disability recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement.
- Conducting employee engagement surveys to get feedback on how accessible and inclusive the workplace environment is.
Build the Pipeline
A successful workplace disability inclusion program is built on proactive outreach and recruitment of people with disabilities. Dan Close, Founder & CEO at We Buy Houses in Kentucky believe “Employers should attempt to cultivate contacts with several recruitment sources to build a pipeline of applicants.” Partnering with local and state service providers (such as vocational rehabilitation agencies), participating in employer networking groups, attending disability-specific career fairs, and providing inclusive mentoring and internship opportunities are all examples of best practices for disability-inclusive outreach and recruitment.
Hire (& Keep) the Best
Eduardo Perez, Founder of Musician Authority says “Building a disability-inclusive organization entails not only attracting and recruiting qualified individuals with disabilities, but also ensuring that policies and processes across the employment lifecycle facilitate the hiring, retention, and promotion of disabled employees.” Job announcements, qualifying standards, hiring, workplace accommodations, career development and advancement, and retention and promotion should all be covered by effective rules and processes.”
To do their duties efficiently, all personnel require the appropriate tools and working environment. Michael Robinson, Marketing Director of Cheap SSL Security says “To enhance the productivity, employees with impairments may require workplace adjustments—or accommodations.” He further added “Automatic doors, sign language interpreters, and flexible work schedules or telework are examples of workplace accommodations.” More than half of all workplace accommodations are free, according to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). In addition, according to the JAN study, most businesses report financial benefits from offering accommodations, such as lower insurance and training costs, as well as higher productivity.
Amber Morland, CEO & Founder of WinCope believes “To attract talented persons with disabilities, your organization must communicate its commitment to disability inclusion both outside and internally.” Internal campaigns, disability-inclusive marketing, and attendance at disability-related job fairs and awareness activities are all examples of this. The following are some examples of best practices for communicating firm policies and procedures:
- Including disability imagery in marketing and promotional products.
- Providing information about company-sponsored career days to local disability organizations.
- Subcontractors, vendors, and suppliers are being informed on appropriate disability policies and priorities.
Be Tech Savvy
The concept of accessibility evolves in tandem with technological advancements. It’s no longer enough for persons with disabilities to be able to walk through a physical door to apply for jobs; the company’s “virtual doors” must also be open. Greg Rozdeba, President of Dundas Life says “Employees with disabilities, like other employees, must be able to use the information and communication technology (ICT) they require to be productive once on the job.” He further adds “Using accessible online recruiting platforms, having a formal ICT policy, hiring a chief accessibility officer, and establishing explicit procurement procedures relating to accessibility are all examples of best practices for providing accessible ICT.”
While rules and procedures are required to improve employment possibilities for people with disabilities, the ultimate goal should be to ensure that they are implemented effectively. Alice Henderson, Founder of Her Scoop says “Companies should take steps to ensure that disability is included in their broader diversity goals and encourage employees to self-identify as disabled to measure the impact of disability inclusion efforts.” Training on disability-related issues, establishing accountability metrics and processes for self-identification, and including disability inclusion goals into relevant personnel’s performance plans are all examples of best practices for accountability and self-identification.
Remember that handicapped inclusion is something that employers should work on all the time and that an open mind should be retained when it comes to accommodating a wider variety of a varied workforce, providing various workplace accommodations, and providing flexible working conditions.