'Simply saying that you welcome applications from disabled people is not enough. Recruitment platforms need to be accessible and work with assistive technology', Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum.
Attracting and recruiting disabled talent
- Review your hiring processes from application to interview with the aim of increasing the number of people with disabilities applying for roles. Ensure your recruitment platform is accessible and will work with assistive technology. For specific recommendations refer to Business Disability Forum's guide.
- Demonstrate your credentials as a disability-friendly employer and how your organisation is committed to inclusion and diversity as well as making a statement that your organisation welcomes applications from people with a disability or long-term health condition.
- Understand if your AI system is automatically rejecting candidates with gaps in their employment history. Educate hiring managers and recruiters. Education isn’t always fully accessible and people with chronic illnesses or disabilities may take alternative routes into employment. Consider experience gained from both work and non-work scenarios when looking at skills and abilities for each applicant.
- Advertise your vacancy through a range of media to appeal to a diverse audience and
consider using a mix of channels, including those that specifically reach disabled people. Make sure your application forms are accessible. Avoid PDF documents, use simple language, and give people the option to apply in their preferred format. Offer alternative versions, such as large text format or braille.
- Advertise roles as open to part-time and remote options to attract the broadest talent pools.
- Provide a contact point for people who may have questions about the recruitment process or require support to apply.
- Consider offering disabled people an invitation to the first assessment stage if they meet the minimum criteria for the job.
- Consider if a ‘work trial’ rather than a formal interview would provide a clearer indication of a person’s suitability for the job (giving them an opportunity to show you what they can do, rather than tell you about it).
- Use appropriate language in relation to disability, and expect the same of others,
whether a disabled person is present or not. For example, use ‘people/person with a disability’, wheelchair user rather than wheelchair bound; visually impaired rather than blind; avoid 'suffers from'. Scope’s ‘End the awkward’ initiative provides practical tips on what to do and what not to do in a variety of situations.
Learn how AbilityNet has updated its recruitment process to become more inclusive and hire the best talent in our Signatory Spotlight.
Supporting, retaining and developing disabled talent
- Ask people what they need to be productive. Most people will know the adaptions they need to do their job.
- Aim to create environments where people feel safe and able to share about their disability or long-term condition. Consider the language being used to encourage people to share this information. Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum says that many people might not identify with the term ‘disabled’. “Too often,” she says, “we use negative terms, such as ‘declare’ or ‘disclose’ when we talk about disability. What we really should be saying is ‘is there anything we can do to help you be as productive as possible in your role?’ And we should be saying this to all employees, not just those who have identified as disabled.”
- 'People with disabilities are normal people with their own faults and achievements, but too often they are labelled as inspirational just for doing day-to-day activities. Yes, people with disabilities can be inspiring – but only if they have done something inspiring, just like anyone else', Human Resources Director Magazine.
- Regularly evaluate policies, practices and adjustments with disabled employees to highlight any required changes to create full accessibility to benefits and services for employees (and customers). Gather information and feedback by conducting surveys and creating focus groups to understand the needs and different workplace journeys of your employees. Co design solutions with employees.
- Don’t make assumptions – don’t assume that because someone is disabled or has access needs that they automatically can or can’t do certain things.
A report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) recommends three key actions for leaders of organisations:
1. Invest in Meaningful Employee-Centric Policies and Programs.
Ensure that the effort is supported at the highest levels of the organisation. Infuse disability inclusion and accessibility into policies and programmes: set and publish ambitions for disability representation and inclusion metrics and incorporate disability representatives on interview panels. Encourage senior leaders to share their own experiences with disability and health conditions.
Start with a focus on education, communication, and affiliation. Roll out organisation-wide training on concepts of disability, accessibility, and inclusion, helping employees understand how best to support team members with disabilities. Establish employee resource groups (ERGs) so that those with disabilities or health conditions can connect with one another and the larger community can learn and become allies.
2. Create Mentorship Programs That Include People With Disabilities (PwD).
Determine whether employees with disabilities are making use of mentorship programs. Mentorship for employees with disabilities can be incorporated as part of a broad program, or it can be specific to employees with disabilities, perhaps as part of an ERG. Evaluate the effectiveness of mentorship programs, including the matching process and mentors’ role in upward mobility for PwD within the organisation.
3. Provide Reasonable Accommodations.
Remember that providing reasonable accommodations is not about lowering expectations for employees with disabilities; rather, it means ensuring that all employees, including those with disabilities, have what they need to be productive, effective, and efficient at work. Put in place a user-centric system that outlines a policy for reasonable accommodations policy and process. Make sure it is clearly and widely communicated, supported by a well-trained team, and funded to eliminate stress on business unit budgets (by, for example, funding reasonable accommodations centrally or budgeting reasonable accommodations into P&L planning).
Ensure an end-to-end approach: from the initial hiring process through an employee’s full tenure, make it easy for PwD to ask for and receive accommodations. Evaluate requests for accommodations with trust. As needed, consult with medical, occupational health, and disability inclusion experts to ensure that employees receive the most effective and appropriate accommodations.
Train direct managers to appropriately handle disability disclosure conversations and to implement reasonable accommodations and other workplace adjustments. Give them the resources they require: education and training to recognize the need for reasonable accommodations and to know how to implement them, for example, and time to support direct reports with the process of requesting a reasonable accommodation and assessing its effectiveness.
Consider centralising the system for reasonable accommodations to aggregate common requests and ensure fair and equitable implementation of accommodations.
For comprehensive guidance on supporting, retaining and developing disabled talent, read Recruiting, managing and developing people with a disability or health condition, CIPD & Business Disability Forum.
- Create **inclusive communications**
- Use a range of communication channels to maximise the number of people you reach.
- Talk to a disabled person as you would to anyone else – focus on a person’s ability rather
than their disability.
- How much someone wishes to talk about their disability depends on their individual
- Speak directly to the disabled person, not their support worker or interpreter.
- If you are having trouble understanding someone’s speech, it’s okay to ask them to repeat
themselves. Don’t pretend to understand or finish someone’s sentences – be patient.
Use a guide such as this one from The Equality and Human Rights Commission to plan inclusive events.
Education, technology and strategy
- Support and educate people managers. In order to drive a more inclusive and diverse culture and support disability inclusion, Nokia developed an eBook for their People Managers called “No Limits to Opportunity” and shared externally.
- Use internal and external role models to myth bust. The Shaw Trust run the Shaw Trust Disability Power List 100 annually. The Shaw Trust’s work with the Power List aims to change perceptions of and normalise disability, tackle social exclusion and importantly, provide role models for the young and talented leaders of tomorrow.
- Build a library of resources including videos for the purposes of storytelling, showcasing role models and myth busting. Drive specific campaigns; for example, mental health, wellbeing, neurodiversity, ADHD, dyslexia and autism.
- Develop a Disability Inclusion Strategy. The Business Disability Forum provides tools to help organisations become disability-inclusive. Their Disability Standard helps organisations to measure and improve their progress towards becoming disability-smart.
- Technology helps organisations become disability-inclusive. Screen-reading software, captioning videos and using alt text for visuals are all ways you can make the information you share and create accessible, both for internal and external audiences. It is important to check with the organisation's disabled employees that the technology identified will be useful, rather than assuming what they may need. The Shaw Trust has a wealth of information and resources to help employers ensure their digital assets are fully accessible, increasing their effectiveness and reach. The Shaw Trust Accessible Services is unique in the marketplace employing disabled people with first-hand, lived experience of disability and assistive technology.
- Disability must be a priority in procurement, so that all users – including those with disabilities – can access and use what you procure. Read more. In the UK and many other jurisdictions, organisations are legally responsible for ensuring that products and services they procure from external suppliers are accessible and do not discriminate against disabled people.
🔦Enterprise Rent-A-Car introduced an 'Enterprise Wellbeing Passport' designed to document factors that may affect an employee’s performance at work, including cognitive preferences, work styles, faith, disability or long-term conditions. The passport details the reasonable adjustments agreed between the employee and their line manager and helps facilitate conversations with new managers as the employee progresses within their career.
- Guide: Business Disability Forum's Global Disability Toolkit - includes advice for global businesses, including adjustments, strategy and performance management.
- Report: The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2023, Business Disability Forum
- Article: What is Disability Pride Month?, Inclusive Employers
- Video: TTC Share and Learn Session: Creating Disability Inclusive Workspaces, with experts from AbilityNet
- Article: What works to change attitudes towards disabled people, The Behavioural Insights Team
- Report: Mental Health and Employers: a case for investment - the pandemic and beyond, Deloitte
- Guide: Disability-smart procurement guide, Business Disability Forum
- Handbook: Giving a Damn About Accessibility: a candid and practical handbook for designers
- Guidance: Employing disabled people and people with health conditions, Gov.uk
- Form: Sign up to become Disability Confident Committed, Gov.uk
- How to Run Inclusive Events - An Organiser's Top Tips - Eventbrite UK
- Guide: Best practice for recruiting and retaining disabled people, Business Disability Forum
- Guide: Recruiting, managing and developing people with a disability or health condition, CIPD & Business Disability Forum
- Article: Ignorance causing employers to miss out on UK's disabled talent, HR Magazine
- Guide: Six Tips to Keep in Mind When Creating Accessible Virtual Meetings, DisabilityIN
- Article: Unlocking the Potential of Neurodivergent Talent, Gartner (subscription required)