October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). NDEAM is a time to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of individuals with disabilities in the workforce.
Helping to create a more welcoming society that is supportive of diverse individual needs is at the very core of everything we do here at Recite Me. It’s the reason that the company exists, and why the whole team will always get behind efforts to forge positive change by improving people’s understanding of accessibility and inclusion.
So, let’s get started…
What Barriers Do Individuals with Disabilities Face?
To understand more about the barriers disabled job hunters and employees face, we must first define what we mean by ‘a disability.’
Spoiler alert: it’s not just about mobility issues and wheelchair access – although that’s certainly part of it. It’s also about the millions of Americans with hidden disabilities like vision impairments, hearing loss, and neurodivergent traits like dyslexia, dyspraxia, hyperlexia, etc.
For these individuals, the process of applying for a job and joining your workforce is riddled with obstacles. For example:
Inaccessible websites prevent disabled employees from finding out about your job listings.
Online recruitment portals without accessible forms and PDF documents exclude talented disabled individuals from submitting applications.
Assessments and skills tests in inaccessible formats prevent disabled candidates from showcasing their abilities and potential.
Inaccessible training materials impede the learning and professional development of disabled employees.
Lack of assistive technology in the workplace hinders disabled employees’ productivity and ability to perform.
5 Steps to an Inclusive Workforce
Looking for guidance and best practices on how to attract, train, and retain the best talent for your teams? To do that, you’ll need to include people with physical and hidden disabilities. Here’s a comprehensive list of the strategies you should be adopting.
1. Ensure Leadership Commitment
Creating an inclusive culture is not a one-time process. Ensuring leadership commitment from the top down is essential for setting the tone and prioritizing inclusion efforts. When leaders actively endorse and prioritize disability inclusion, it sends a powerful message to employees at all levels. It communicates that this is not just a matter of compliance, but a core value of the company.
2. Develop Inclusive Hiring Practices
Integrating diversity and inclusion into recruitment processes is essential. You’ll need to:
- Review and update current processes to ensure they are accessible to candidates with disabilities.
- Ensure your organization complies with the anti-discrimination laws laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Promote job openings in disability-specific networks and communities.
- Provide an inclusive candidate journey for new recruits by ensuring your website complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
- Ensure your social media profiles are accessible.
- Build diverse interviewing panels that adopt inclusion principles into the process.
3. Commit to New Diversity and Inclusion Policies and Initiatives
A company’s culture doesn’t become magically inclusive just by willing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies into existence. A concerted effort is needed to ensure the measures you put in place are actionable rather than a ‘check the box’ exercise.
The first step is to conduct accessibility audits and assessments to better understand where you are now, and what changes are required going forward. Here are some examples of strategies you could use:
- Operate a confidential ‘open door’ policy for staff to voice their needs or concerns, knowing they will be heard.
- Create Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that provide employees with a safe space to meet and discuss common interests and issues.
- Be proactive in regularly gathering employee feedback and ensuring that employees with disabilities have a say in decision-making processes.
- Encourage direct staff involvement in diversity and inclusion discussions, and incorporate mental health management into employee review processes.
- Provide diversity and inclusion training for recruiters, interviewers, onboarding teams, and managers.
- Educate employees on disability inclusion through workshops, seminars, and awareness campaigns.
4. Make Adjustments for Disabled Employees
Many companies shy away from accessibility and inclusion adjustments as they perceive them as too complex, expensive, or difficult to work around. However, this is a misperception, as the average cost of making an accommodation for a disabled employee is just a few hundred dollars – and one industry report suggests that nearly half of all accommodation costs for disabled employees are free.
So, what adjustments should you be making? A few examples include:
- Making workstation modifications – Like adjustable desks, ergonomic chairs, keyboards, and computer mice.
- Updating documentation and communication – The basics include using dyslexia-friendly fonts, providing documents in alternative formats, and installing tactile signage.
- Providing accessibility tools – Such as magnifiers, screen readers, text-to-speech software, voice recognition software, dictation tools, and customizable assistive technology solutions.
5. Commit to Continuous Improvement
It’s a good idea to establish mentoring programs that pair employees with disabilities with mentors who can provide guidance and support. You’ll also need to:
- Set and track key performance indicators related to disability inclusion to measure progress and identify areas for improvement.
- Ensure that employees with disabilities have equal opportunities for career advancement, promotions, and leadership roles.
- Communicate clearly that your organization has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment based on disability.
- Stay informed about emerging assistive technology trends.
- Collaborate with assistive technology experts and organizations.
How Recite Me Can Help
Making sure your online content is accessible to everyone is the right thing to do. But it’s also essential if you’re to attract candidates from the broadest possible talent pool.
Recite Me’s innovative suite of accessibility on-demand tools makes websites accessible and inclusive for a diverse range of people. Check out our Accessibility Checker and Assistive Toolbar to learn more.
Plus, we’ve developed a free online inclusion toolkit to help businesses make a real difference for everyone who encounters online barriers. Download yours today to unlock the power of digital inclusion for your workforce.