Creating an Inclusive Hiring Blueprint

By , October 20, 2010

Today is Disability Mentoring Day, and hundreds of employers around the country are participating in mentoring and job shadowing programs for students and others with disabilities. Last year, Disability Mentoring Day integrated more than 16,000 students and job seekers in communities in every state.

For many companies, though, the most difficult challenge in establishing a more inclusive (or disability-friendly) workplace is getting started.  Here are some six strategies for creating a blueprint that will help you hire people with disabilities in your company:

  1. RECRUITING: Test your company’s recruiting messages to make sure they’re reaching the community of people with disabilities. This includes making sure electronic resume submission and online employment applications do not create barriers that stop prospective employees right at your website, before they even have a chance to apply.
  2. MARKETING: One of the best ways to market is to create a public statement on your website that says you value diversity and are committed to diversity and in hiring people with disabilities. Job descriptions and website career pages offer additional opportunities for a company to build a strong equal opportunity message. One idea: Add a line to your job description that says, “We are a Think Beyond the Label employer.” You can also add the Think Beyond the Label badge to your website or social media properties. I Think Beyond The Label Badge
  3. PARTNERING: Enlist the aid of a disability employment specialist who can provide a list of people with disabilities who meet the requirements of current job opening. Click here to find your state’s resources that can provide your company with access to its pool of qualified candidates.
  4. INTERVIEWING: Delay questions and conversations about a potential disability until you’ve determined that the candidate has strong credentials for the job and seems a good fit for the company’s culture. Then work your disability questions into the interview by asking what accommodations might be needed if he or she were hired.
  5. ACCOMMODATING: If you have to make an accommodation for an employee, don’t fret; 56% of accommodations cost less than $600 with many costing nothing at all, according to the Job Accommodation Network. Consider applying for tax credits designed to offset those costs. There are small business and worker opportunity tax credits, and many companies may qualify for additional tax credits available at the state level. In total, these can have a value close to the $10,000 mark.
  6. NETWORKING: Create disability affinity groups or advisory councils within your company. These can include parents, siblings, spouses, and children of people with disabilities as well as your own employees with disabilities. As part of these efforts, your company can create and submit positive stories about hiring and accommodating your workers with disabilities in your monthly newsletter or Intranet portal. Be sure to share all of the fantastic Think Beyond the Label content, too, such as success stories.

For hands-on help in hiring, check out the Field Guide to Evolving Your Workforce, a publication designed to help companies leverage the business advantages of inclusive hiring. And be sure to follow Think Beyond the Label on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to get more advice about hiring this untapped talent pool.

And be sure to follow Think Beyond the Label on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to get more advice about hiring this untapped talent pool.

Author: Suzanne Robitaille

Suzanne Robitaille is the founder of abledbody.com, a website on disability issues. She is the former assistive technology columnist for BusinessWeek.com, giving rise to her fascination with technology that helps people with disabilities surmount barriers in the workplace and life space. She is also the author of The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology & Devices. As a writer and blogger, Suzanne is a trusted source of disability information for The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, HealthDay, Media Post, Ability Magazine, Disaboom and more. Suzanne lost her hearing at age four and grew up profoundly deaf. In 2002 she received a cochlear implant, which she credits as "the ultimate assistive technology."