Labour shortages are one of the most pressing issues facing Canadian businesses right now, yet there is a largely untapped pool of talent that more businesses could be engaging to help fill this gap.
Roughly 6.2 million Canadians aged 15 and over have one or more disabilities. According to Statistics Canada, among those with disabilities between the ages of 25 and 64 years who were not working or in school, two in five (or 39%) had the potential to work. This is equal to nearly 645,000 individuals that Canadian businesses could leverage for talent.
May 18 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which aims to encourage conversations on and share information about digital access and inclusion. In honour of GAAD, here are three ways businesses can take a more inclusive and accessible approach to hiring using digital communications and technology.
Create an accessible and inclusive hiring notice
Rather than using a blanket statement that mentions equal opportunities and asks applicants to disclose any access needs to their manager, consider framing your accessibility notice in a way that places joint responsibility on the employee and the organization. It is important to strike a delicate balance between highlighting your company’s accommodation options and forcing applicants to disclose aspects of their disabilities that they may wish to keep private.
One way of doing this is by communicating that your company encourages open and ongoing conversations with applicants about current and future accommodations. Each person’s access needs are unique, so it is important to highlight in your hiring notice that discussions around access are ongoing in recognition that an employee’s needs may change.
Consider also naming a point person in the job posting to field questions about essential role requirements and disability accommodations. As a best practice, this contact should be separate from the hiring manager for privacy reasons.
Finally, consider posting about the role in the various formats that the posting platform may allow, including in large print, and accessible electronic formats that are compatible with a screen reader. Communicate a willingness to receive applications in different forms as well, including by mail fax, teletypewriter (TTY), or a video relay service.
The language and format most businesses use in creating a job post can unknowingly prevent them from hiring the right talent, but by employing some of the above tactics you can remove barriers for individuals with various access needs who may be interested in the opportunity.
Link job postings to internal accessibility initiatives
Another best practice is to link job postings to an accessibility initiatives section on your website. This information would go over accessible programs and policies available to workers with disabilities. Tools such as assistive technology, flexible work schedules, and accessible facilities could be included in this area. Additionally, this web page should highlight training initiatives that encourage disability inclusion and awareness throughout the organization. Businesses can also offer details about how they adhere to rules and regulations governing people with disabilities, as well as resources for staff members with access needs.
Showcasing these measures helps demonstrate that the organization is dedicated to proactively creating an inclusive and welcoming workplace while allowing job seekers to make informed decisions about whether the organization may be a good fit for them.
Broaden the use of accessible technology during interviews and communicate various interview format options in your job post
The spoon theory is a metaphor that scholars and authors in the disability and chronic illness field have used to describe the amount of physical or mental energy a person has to complete a task. According to the metaphor, a spoon represents a unit of energy that must be used for everyday tasks. People with chronic illnesses or disabilities may have a limited number of spoons on any given day. As a result, communicating that your business can provide a variety of interview formats that may reduce the amount of energy that an applicant must use is key.
Technology can be an incredible tool for removing barriers for individuals with disabilities. For instance, those with mobility issues may prefer to have their interview via video conference rather than coming in person. This approach can also include using video software with auto-generated captioning for applicants with hearing impairments.
Once again, it is important to communicate these options with applicants and offer them the opportunity to choose an interview format that works best for their needs. These can range from an in-person visit in a quieter room that you will need to book in advance, to offering a wheelchair-accessible room, or using a task-oriented or test-based interview to demonstrate skill instead of a standard question format which some applicants (including some neurodiverse applicants) may prefer. It is never a bad thing to ask someone what type of accommodation they require for an interview.
Remember, as with many processes, working toward greater inclusivity takes time and learning, and like many businesses in Canada, NATIONAL is also committed to a journey of ongoing improvement.
——— Sagar Munot is a former Manager, Digital Strategy at NATIONAL Public Relations