Hiring persons with disabilities is not that much different from hiring other employees: you focus on ability and find the best person for the job.
Preparation and planning will ensure that your business is accessible to candidates with disabilities at every stage of the hiring process.
Taking the lead
Your attitude as a business leader is the cornerstone of creating an effective, inclusive workplace:
- Take stock of how inclusive your workplace is right now—you may already have employees and clients with disabilities.
- Ensure that your senior staff members are aware of your commitment to hiring employees with disabilities. Frame it as an opportunity to increase diversity in your workplace.
- Offer access to information and training about diversity for staff at all levels. Community agencies specializing in employment services for people with disabilities can often provide this.
- Write your commitment to hiring people with disabilities into your human resources policy.
- Be a role model. Show your staff and supervisors you know what inclusion means by respecting all employees as part of the team.
Language and attitude set the tone for welcoming employees with disabilities:
- Put the person first and the disability second—i.e., a person with a disability rather than a disabled person.
- Treat people with disabilities as you would other individuals. For example:
- Make eye contact. Avoiding it may cause discomfort or tension.
- Even if there's an attendant or interpreter, speak directly to the person involved.
Your recruiting process will probably depend on the kind of positions you want to fill:
- You may want to work with a local community service provider that specializes in recruitment, placement and workplace support for people with disabilities.
- You can also visit the Canada Job Bank's Recruit persons with disabilities page to post job ads for free and market them to interested persons with disabilities.
- Complete a detailed job analysis for the position.
- Use wording in job postings that encourages candidates with disabilities to apply, e.g. "123 Company is an inclusive, accessible workplace."
- Make sure your website uses accessible technology and design, including adequate print (font) size. If you use selection software to review resumés or applications online, set it to screen for the actual qualifications and experience you identified in the job posting.
If you're working with a service provider, they will likely handle the hiring process. Otherwise, consider the following:
- Short list and interview candidates with disabilities the same way you would any candidates—based on their abilities and the job requirements.
- Consider equivalencies in credentials and experience, and focus on transferrable skills. This opens up the short list to a broader range of qualified candidates.
- Make sure people with mobility or visual impairments can access the interview and work location.
- Know what questions you legally can and cannot ask in a job interview. Check out What Can Employers Ask? and visit the information for employers section at the Alberta Human Rights Commission website at albertahumanrights.ab.ca.
- The time to ask about accommodations is when you make an offer to the candidate. You may simply ask, "What can we provide or do that will make it easier for you to do this job?"
You're probably already providing accommodations to your employees, such as ergonomic furniture for some workers, or a flexible schedule for a single parent. Accommodating employees with disabilities is often less complicated and less costly than many employers assume:
- Most accommodations cost less than $500 and are tax deductible as expenses.
- Accommodations can involve technology (such as voice recognition software) or structural changes (such as ramps or electronic doors).
- Accommodations may be flexible work practices, such as telecommuting or a self-paced workload.
- To find out about financial and other support available for employers, check out Alberta Community and Social Services' Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES).
- Read about best practices in accommodation.
- To find out more about accommodations, visit the information for employers section at the Alberta Human Rights Commission website at albertahumanrights.ab.ca.
Engaging and retaining
Employees with disabilities are motivated to work for the same reasons as other employees:
- Tell them what's expected, offer challenges and provide constructive feedback on their performance.
- Offer natural supports for success, such as effective orientation, partnering with a co-worker during the orientation period, and opportunities for mentorship and coaching.
- Include employees with disabilities in group activities, such as after-work get-togethers and charitable fundraisers.
- Provide access to career and training opportunities.
Hiring people with disabilities is similar in many ways to hiring people without disabilities, with some unique factors to consider. Planning and leadership will help you ensure that your hiring process is accessible to everyone. You will be hiring people with disabilities for the same reasons you hire other job seekers—because they have skills, are motivated and will make good employees.