Employees with Disabilities

What comes to mind when you think of a disability? Blindness? Hearing impairment? Being wheelchair bound? These disabilities may come to mind, but the definition of a disability is actually much broader.

Nearly 20 percent of people in the United States — or about 60 million people — have a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Understanding the wide range of disabilities could be helpful to you in reaching prospective employees with disabilities and keeping and developing the ones you have.

Here are some factors to consider:

Does your organization have a business strategy for recruiting, hiring and retaining people with disabilities?
Has your organization asked people with disabilities to test your online application forms and videos?
Some experts suggest bringing in 10 people with 10 different disabilities and capturing their experience on video as they talk through any challenges they experience.

Having a disability employee resource group that is aligned with your organization’s business goals and objectives could be a great asset. Group members could assist with bringing onboard new hires with disabilities, identifying marketing opportunities for products and services tailored to people with disabilities, and reviewing policies and business processes that affect people with disabilities. In addition, your organization should review its crisis management plan and ensure that it has a method for assisting people with disabilities during an emergency or evacuation drill.

Employers can find qualified candidates who have disabilities by looking beyond the campus career center and reaching out to schools’ disability service directors, who work with students with disabilities and can find candidates who meet an employer’s skills and education criteria. Prospective employers also could team up with groups such as the Easter Seals and a city or state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services or Bureau of Rehabilitation Services to access the talent pipeline. These groups also can provide tips on how to appropriately interact with people with disabilities.

Job applicants and employees with disabilities may be hesitant to self-identify. Companies can get around that by including on their website a definition of disabilities that lists issues such as chemical sensitivity. Disclosing is not the same as requesting an accommodation.

Companies also could list essential job functions for all positions at the company. This allows a job candidate to read the list of duties for a given job and then determine whether he or she is able to perform those functions.

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