Skip to main navigation Skip to content

Hiring and retaining employees with disabilities is not just the right thing to do, it is good business. Just because a candidate has a disability does not mean they are not the best person for the job. Too often, employers miss out on talent by overlooking workers with disabilities. The truth is, with minor accommodations, an employer may be able to add an indispensable talent to its team.

Furthermore, getting diverse perspectives and fresh insights can help an organization better connect with clients and customers. It also can help the organization deliver innovative solutions to its most pressing problems.

Studies have shown that hiring people with disabilities also improves profitability, with benefits extending to employee turnover, retention, loyalty, punctuality and reliability. Therefore, a strong diversity and inclusion strategy can give an organization a key advantage over its competitors, helping it attract and retain top talent while driving innovative results. Here are five steps an organization can take to make that strategy a reality.

1. Create inviting and inclusive job descriptions.

Commitment to inclusion means more than just hiring an individual with a disability who happens to apply for the job. Instead, to have a truly inclusive workplace culture, the employer should actively recruit individuals with disabilities. This means posting job descriptions that provide information specific to those with disabilities.

A well-crafted job description can attract qualified employees with disabilities. To do so, they should contain detail beyond what is customarily included in a vacancy announcement. Additional elements necessary include environmental factors that would be relevant to various disabilities. Issues like lighting, noise, air quality and other factors should be considered.

The posting should provide a comprehensive breakdown of all the physical requirements for the job, covering lifting, standing, sitting, walking and other activities. Also, it should address those accommodations that may be provided.

The description should also explicitly state the schedule and number of hours per week expected. If schedule flexibility and telecommuting are options, the job posting should describe those options as in-depth as possible. Such opportunities tend to be enticing to candidates with disabilities and could make the difference between them applying for your open position or ignoring the posting altogether.

Once an organization has crafted an inclusive job description, it should consider posting it on sites that cater directly to individuals with disabilities. One example is AbilityLinks, a website that connects applicants with disabilities to a network of employers that value inclusion. The site provides a job board to post vacancies.

2. Promote employees with disabilities.

This may sound obvious enough, but in order to create a culture that fosters diversity, you need to demonstrate a commitment to equal career opportunities. It is not enough to just hire individuals with disabilities. An employer needs to provide career paths for them and remove the barriers that could hold them back.

Employers must ensure that employees with disabilities have equal opportunities for promotion. One of the primary reasons why workers leave their jobs is that they lack opportunities for advancement. Thus, career development strategies are crucial.

One particular area to focus on is training. Employers may need to provide reasonable accommodation to ensure those with disabilities can fully participate in training. This means that the employer may have to use note-takers or sign language interpreters for employees who are deaf; add extra breaks to training schedules; make sure online training systems are accessible; and provide materials in a variety of formats such as large-print.

3. Ensure the workplace is free of any physical and attitudinal barriers.

Make sure that the office or facility includes restrooms, hallways and storage spaces that are accessible for people of all heights and mobility. It is key that employers survey the physical premises of the workplace, viewing it through the eyes of potential employees with varying disabilities. They should also review the Americans with Disabilities Act’s Standards for Accessible Design.

Would someone have to reach substantially for a paper towel dispenser? Is there a step up into a meeting area? Is there a door that is hard to push open? Is there room for clearance under a restroom sink? These are just some of the examples of things that affect those living with disabilities in their daily life. Employers should note which items are not ADA compliant and make any necessary adjustments.

The organization should also implement a policy encouraging employees with disabilities and other workers to identify barriers and other concerns they see without fear of reprisal. At the very least, provide a mechanism for such information to be provided anonymously or confidentially.

4. Be creative when it comes to reasonable accommodations.

People with disabilities may need reasonable accommodations to do their jobs. Employers often fret that making accommodations will be expensive. However, accommodations frequently cost much less than employers expect.

The federal Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Job Accommodation Network has surveyed employers over the last 15 years and found that there is usually little to no cost for accommodating employees with disabilities. For those that do have a cost, it is overwhelmingly a one-time expense. Only three percent of employers reported ongoing annual expenditures for accommodations. The median one-time expenditure was just $500.

Because of advances in technology, many accommodations needed for those with disabilities are reasonably priced. For example, speech-to-text software for visually impaired employees or captioning screens for those with hearing impairments have nominal costs.

5. Develop a mission statement illustrating the employer’s commitment to the inclusion of workers with disabilities.

One of the easiest ways to foster an inclusive culture is to draft a mission statement that specifically sets forth the organization’s pledge to foster workplace diversity. Expressing the organization’s commitment to welcoming the skills and talents of people with disabilities, both internally and externally, is a good start toward creating a culture of inclusion.

Larger organizations should also establish a company-wide team of executives, managers and employees to support and advance strategies for recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting individuals with disabilities.

People living with disabilities provide a largely untapped talent source. Organizations that fail to embrace diversity and inclusion are at a competitive disadvantage to those companies that wholeheartedly welcome those with disabilities. Strategies to attract such talent and ensure full participation will go a long way toward unlocking that advantage. It is not just a moral obligation, its good for business.

Back to All News