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Attracting and Retaining Disabled Talent

Disability is often neglected in the conversation about hiring diverse talent and the benefits of having a diverse workforce. As we are currently in an unprecedented talent shortage, recruiters are looking to reach untapped pools of talent and improve their retention. As disabled people make up a huge portion of the workforce and many struggle with lack of accommodations, this should be a hot button issue.

Not only are disabled people potential candidates you may be failing to reach due to accessibility issues, many workplaces already have disabled people they are unaware of. Disability is not a minority issue, with 1 in 5 having or getting a disability during their working life. But 97% of disabilities are not visible, leaving many in the dark as to what it means to be disabled in the workplace. Disabilities may include physical disabilities such as those requiring use of chairs, canes, hearing or visual aids, but may also include invisible conditions like dyslexia, autism, diabetes, depression, and other chronic illnesses.


Disabilities may be invisible or misunderstood

Employees may be reluctant to share their disabled status with employers for rightful fear of discrimination in hiring and in the workplace, due to prejudice and misunderstanding of many disabilities. For example, a common story among wheelchair users is receiving harassment and accusations of “faking” their disability if they do not constantly use a chair. There is an incorrect assumption that anyone who uses a chair cannot be mobile without it to any degree, when in fact many people who use chairs may be able to walk or stand in certain conditions, but need a chair to get around sufficiently. 

Similarly, legally blind people have various degrees of visual impairment. Disability is not all or nothing.

According to Legally Disabled, only 7% of disabled candidates found it easy to get information about a workplace’s accessibility and accommodations. Only 9.7% have had a positive experience with recruiting agencies. People living with disabilities are also twice as likely to be unemployed. Organizations must be proactive to improve conditions for disabled employees.


Creating a disability-friendly recruitment strategy and workplace

According to the Accenture 2018 white paper on accessibility, companies that successfully incorporate candidates with disabilities see 28% higher revenue and two times higher net income. They also experienced reduced turnover, lower recruiting costs, increased productivity and improved customer outreach. Disabled people need certain accommodations to perform at their best. So how can you improve your retention and reach this talent pool?

Make it easy to ask for accommodations. Ask everyone what adjustments they might need to work at their best, rather than assuming you will know who to ask, or assuming someone will reach out about accommodations without prompting. People may be reluctant to ask if the company culture is not inclusive of disability people. Involve leadership in awareness efforts, and consider disability resource groups or an advocacy council. 

For candidates, make sure your application and public information is as accessible as possible. Can your website be easily read and navigated with a screen reader? Does your employee brand social media images have alt text? Are there unnecessary steps in your application? Consider an accessibility audit for your application and on-boarding process.

You can also reach out to disability community organizations to both source candidates and educate yourself on creating a disability-friendly workplace. Outside organizations have a lot of resources and may be able to provide training for recruiters and education to reduce stigma in the workplace.

During this talent shortage, sourcing and retaining diverse talent and untapped talent pools will be a cornerstone of recruiters’ strategies. Don’t overlook the disabled workforce, whether employees you might already have, or as potential candidates. This large portion of the workforce deserves the proper accommodations.

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