October is National Disability Employment Month which is a very important month to take note of since the unemployment rate of a person with a disability is twice as high as the rate for those without a disability (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). This is especially notable during the COVID-19 crisis the World Health Organization noted that approximately 1 million U.S. workers with disabilities have lost their jobs since March. A survey by NOD of 200 organizations found that the laid-off workers with disabilities may have a tough road ahead with many companies noting that they lack disability-inclusive cultures especially when looking at accommodation processes currently available.
Now is the time for companies to reevaluate their culture and look to create a more disability-inclusive culture to not only help current employees but future ones as well. I have compiled a list of 5 ways employers can start to create a more disability inclusive culture.
The first step to creating a more disability inclusive culture is making sure that you are not deterring candidates from applying to your jobs. Review your job descriptions and make sure that the requirements are must haves and note that some descriptions for weight/standing requirements can deter candidates from applying. Also, make sure that your web content and other supporting communications are fully accessible.
When posting jobs, you want to make sure that they get in front of the right audience as well. Circa’s Diversity Recruiting Solution has over 2,200 people with disabilities community organizations that you can connect with across the United States to work together to hire the right candidates. Additionally, community partners are happy to help talk about and share some tips about accommodations in the workplace as well.
If you haven’t yet, review your current policies and procedures to ensure you have clear statements for accommodations, inclusivity, and recruiting, hiring, retaining, and advancing individuals with disabilities at all levels in the company. This includes potentially creating an employee resource group for employees with disabilities to advance and welcome new individuals with disabilities.
You should also look to potentially create a universal policy of workplace flexibility and accommodations for all applicants and employees with and without disabilities. Work from home options have become an increasingly important topic for candidates which I am sure will only increase after the pandemic.
When looking to work with individuals with disability a key thing is to keep an open line of communication. Employees with disabilities should be able to communication anonymously and/or confidentially about barriers and general concerns. The communication provides a way for companies to look at what they need to do to accommodate employees and work towards a more inclusive culture. Communication and check-in with employees should be an ongoing process to ensure employees are not only feeling heard but have all the tools necessary to do their job well.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) conducted a survey and found that 50% of respondents incurred accommodations that cost them absolutely nothing while the rest of the respondents had an average one-time cost of $500 for accommodations. Accommodations can be affordable and provide benefits including an increase in productivity, safety, employee morale, and retention of valued employees.
When getting started with accommodations make sure that you develop, implement and communicate polices around the accommodations in the workplace. If you aren’t sure where to start or what to do for accommodations don’t forget that you can contact JAN for information on low cost and high, positive impact accommodations for free.
Is your business known as being diverse and open to the needs of employees, particularly people with disabilities? And, is this reflected in the language used in your workplace? If not, you need to look at your career page and overall company reflection to the outside to change these views.
On your career page you should look to emphasize your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Also, don’t just say it, show it with your staff photos to give candidates an idea of your diversity. This is also a great place to include any inclusive benefits available and employee resource groups that you have as well.
Remember that disabled inclusivity is something companies should work on continuously and that an open mind should be kept on accommodating a wider range of a diverse workforce, offering different accommodations in the workplace, and flexible working conditions.