October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which is designed to encourage organizations to become more diverse by including people with disabilities and their hiring, as well as educate the workforce about the challenges these employees face. NDEAM was enacted in 1945 with the Congressional passage of Public Law 176, which declared the first week of October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the name was changed to the National Employ the Handicapped Week to recognize the fact that people with non-physical disabilities also deserve to be included in these workplace education efforts. Then in 1988, the week was extended to a month and again renamed.
People with disabilities in the workplace have definitely come a long way since 1945. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2021, the unemployment rate for this talent was 10.1 percent—a 2.5 percent decrease from 2020. However, this was still much higher than the rest of the population, as people with disabilities were twice as likely to be unemployed than those without.
But you can help change that—and this month is an excellent time to start. After all, you're already working on your DEIB hiring, so to increase the diversity and inclusivity of your workplace, it's a good idea to explore ways to hire more people with disabilities. The following are strategies to help you do it.
3 Ways to Hire More People With Disabilities
As you focus on your diversity recruitment plan, try the following tips to help you hire more people with disabilities.
1. Partner With Relevant Groups
In order to expand your reach and promote your employer brand among people with disabilities, you can partner with organizations that cater to their needs. By working with groups like the National Organization on Disability, the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion, and Enable America, you can help increase opportunities for this talent and create a pipeline to boost inclusivity at your organization.
In addition, to help with your early career hiring, partner with organizations at colleges and universities that provide services to students with disabilities. Be sure to participate in the events these groups organize so you can get to know students and demonstrate that your company is interested in hiring them after graduation.
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2. Craft Inclusive Job Postings
Your job advertisements may be the first exposure potential candidates have with your company, so you want to ensure they feel included right away. For example, job descriptions that tell candidates they need to be able to lift a certain number of pounds in order to be hired will alienate those with disabilities, so that kind of language should be avoided if it’s not directly related to a job. However, there is some language you can add to make your job postings more attractive to people with disabilities. Including information about accommodations will definitely signal to candidates that inclusivity is important to your organization, so mention things like having a wheelchair accessible office, and making Braille and large print materials available for those who need them.
3. Use Inclusive Interview Tactics
Effectively interviewing people with disabilities goes further than just the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You're already well aware that you're not supposed to ask questions about the nature of people's health conditions during interviews, and you’re required to provide accommodations when candidates ask for them.
However, inclusivity in interviewing requires more than that. One way you can make the experience more inclusive is by paying close attention to the language you use during interviews. In our day-to-day vernacular, sometimes ablest language may inadvertently creep out even when you don’t intend it to. People may say words like “blind”, “dumb,” “idiot,” “insane,” and “crazy,” all the time without realizing they’re using harmful language. As a result, it's important to be mindful of the words you're using during interviews so you don't give the impression the work environment isn’t inclusive.
Also, it's important to keep in mind that the people you're interviewing may not have the same communication skills as other candidates. As a result, it's a good idea to give people with disabilities the interview questions in advance so they can prepare. Also, center the conversation around candidates’ skills, so the emphasis doesn’t become about how well they may or may not be communicating with you. And if you're able to give them the opportunity to actually demonstrate their skills by having them complete relevant tasks, that's even better.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is putting the needs of people with disabilities top of mind in the workplace. However, when it comes to DEIB hiring, creating inclusivity in your workplace so you can attract more of these employees is always a smart move. These tips can help you incorporate hiring practices that make it easier to attract this talent.
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