Disability should never be a barrier to employment, and HR leaders play a crucial role in ensuring all individuals, regardless of their abilities, have equal access to opportunities. By taking proactive steps to engage and support people with disabilities, HR recruiters can contribute to building a more inclusive workplace. The following 15 strategies are designed to foster a positive candidate experience, dismantle biases, and create an inclusive hiring process that allows candidates with disabilities to showcase their skills. 

Benefits of Hiring from the Disabled Community 

Before jumping into the strategies, you may want to consider some of the many benefits people from the disabled community bring to workplaces. Remember, disability does not only mean physical. Non-visible or invisible disabilities, like dyslexia, ADHD, Crohn’s disease, etc., equally deserve recognition in corporate spaces. 

  • Fresh perspectives on business strategy 
  • Expands consumer market to the disabled community (13% of the U.S. population)
  • Access to a vast talent pool of 21% of the U.S. population 
  • Improves inclusivity of company culture which supports future hires
  • Tax incentives for employers 

Pitfalls of Federal Laws

For people with disabilities, the laws in place do not fully support their needs. Recruiters trying to attract talent with disabilities must understand that the benefits they would offer to an able-bodied candidate are not fair to the disabled community. 

Besides needing more health care benefits and insurance coverage, the policies for disabled individuals only cover so much. The Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, Civil Service Reform Act, and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act, are a few of the federal laws that support people with disabilities. Yet, let’s consider two gaps regarding salary that limit their professional opportunities. 

The first is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in section 14c. It legally allows employers to pay workers with disabilities a subminimum wage. The act originally intended to entice employers to hire disabled workers. However, employers with 14(c) certificates can pay disabled workers pennies for their labor, which can result in dead-end jobs and segregated workshops. These workshops are where people with disabilities perform menial jobs in segregated workspaces. About 320,000 plus Americans with disabilities earn subminimum wages. 

Besides criminally low wages, those who qualify for SSD or SSI have an earning limit that restricts their professional growth. The disability benefits do change annually based on the annual wage index, but it still hinders the disabled community. The monthly earning limit for SSD in 2022 was $1,350 per month and, for those who are blind, $2,260 per month. The full breakdown can be found here

For more information on professional barriers for the disabled community, check out these graphs from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics

Engage & Support Candidates with Disabilities

#1 Welcoming Language on All Platforms 

The simplest strategy to attract candidates from the disabled community is to present your organization’s commitment to DEI on all platforms. Your brand can affect the talent you attract. Welcoming language that eliminates bias and showcases the level of acceptance in your workplace environment can increase your engagement. 

Ensure that all your platforms are also accessible by including a toolbar or setting option that alters text size, dictates, increases contrast, and more!

#2 Accessible Office

For those with physical disabilities, commuting to the office can be a large barrier to employment opportunities. The U.S. is increasing the amount of accessible public transportation, but how accessible are offices? Are the entrances and exits accessible by wheelchair? Is there a way to easily get into the office from the street or parking garage?  

#3 Flexible Work Hours 

People with disabilities cannot always commit to the typical nine-to-five. Whether mentally unable to concentrate for hours straight or physically straining, flexible hours open a world of possibilities. The pandemic brought a ton of positive change for the disabled community they had advocated for years to change. 

Hybrid work hours mean it is easier to schedule doctor appointments, travel to and from the office, find accessible transportation, and more. It’s a win-win for everyone.  

#4 Budget for Technology Assistance

If you advocate for an accessible accommodation budget, then you are proactively supporting future candidates with a disability. Offices without accessible equipment mean you are hiring a diverse candidate into an exclusive office space. Do not wait for someone to need accessible laptops, monitors, desks, and other office supplies. 

Even if it is only enough for one person, you can confidently tell candidates with disabilities that you already have accommodations, and that gives you an edge over competitors. 

#5 Accessible Hiring Process

Another way you could be excluding the disabled community is by limiting how an individual can apply for an open position. If the job post requires a test, does it have options for extended time, font changes, color contrasts, or other tools to support people with disabilities? 

Analyze the entire process and view it from the perspective of someone with a physical disability and someone with an invisible disability. If they cannot make it to the first round of applicants, then your system is biased. 

#6 An Equal Salary 

As we discussed earlier, some employers will pay disabled workers subminimum wage. Any HR leader looking to attract candidates with disabilities should adjust the salary appropriately. A precise number does not necessarily need to be detailed in the job description. Yet, you should include a note on the option to negotiate for anyone, including people with disabilities, for a salary that fully supports their needs and qualification restrictions. 

#7 Adjusting Health Benefits 

A bit of in-depth research on the disparities of health insurance and benefits for the disabled community can go a long way in supporting and attracting talent. Every individual has unique needs and issues they face, so it is difficult to make job posts universal. Instead, communicate transparency about the limitations of the company and express HR’s willingness to advocate for candidates with disabilities. 

#8 Establishing an ERG

ERGs are the cornerstone of establishing a more inclusive workplace. Besides race, ethnicity, or gender-specific ERGs, disability employee groups are a wonderful way to promote accessible working environments. It not only demonstrates to potential employees the opportunity for community, but also your company’s commitment to developing equitable offices. 

#9 Offer Accessible Professional Development

There are only 10% of companies with senior executives who identify as people with disabilities. One resource many companies already provide for their employees is professional development. Mentors, training opportunities, seminars, conferences, and more are not always considered for those with disabilities. Accessible professional development can attract a wider range of candidates and boost inclusivity by using resources many departments have at their disposal. 

#10 Disability Internship Programs

Diversity starts at career pipelines, and what better way to attract diverse candidates than to support them early on? Internships often lead to full-time employment. So, consider what positions you would like to be filled and develop accessible internship programs. Plus, without designing one from scratch, you can model your internship program based on this guide provided by the Office of Disability Employment Policy

#11 Promote Self-Disclosure 

One of the fears people with disabilities have is being treated differently due to their disability. Self-disclosure ensures a safe environment for everyone, not just those with disabilities, to come to work as their authentic self. It is also connected to an increase in motivation, retention, and performance. 

#12 Team Training

Like any minority, the disabled community faces a lot of misconceptions. that affect their workplace environment. Unconscious bias can hinder the formation of a community. Training or seminars at every level of the organization on disability stereotypes and biases can help others better support their colleagues and promote belonging. 

We always want to see the person first, not their disability. 

#13 Promotion Accommodation Discussions 

Often, people with disabilities feel they must “sell” why they need an accommodation. They are not asking for a promotion or a bonus. Many people with disabilities ask for a desk close to the restroom, adjustable chairs, accessible meeting options, extra time off, or schedule adjustments. Accommodations are about improving their day-to-day work life to increase productivity and comfort. 

HR leaders can take the lead and promote accommodation discussions with employees who identify as disabled. Offer check-ins, anonymous tip jars, accessible forms, and other opportunities that allow employees to make their ask. 

#14  Engage with the Disabled Community 

Volunteering at local organizations and communities for the disabled community is a perfect way to improve understanding and attract talent. The more we connect and learn about each other, the more inclusive a work environment becomes. Plus, it doubles as a team bonding activity. 

#15 Hire Services

Some free services, like EARN, educate employees on effective hiring strategies, retaining, and advancement for people with disabilities. Others, like the Professional Diversity Network, post jobs for people with disabilities through affinity groups, partner with diverse organizations to improve hiring processes, and host diversity recruitment events. 

Interested in creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce at your company? Professional Diversity Network has been helping employers build productive and diverse workforces since 2003. Contact us today to find out how we can help with your unique recruitment needs.