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Banishing Barriers: Building Disability Awareness into Recruiting

People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world, at about one billion people and 15% of the global population. The disability community has often struggled with unemployment and finding good jobs due to bias and a lack of awareness among employers — but the tide appears to be turning. 

Hiring is up across the board in today’s tight labor market, which includes groups who were overlooked in the past. This helps those on both sides of the hiring equation: more job seekers with disabilities are getting hired for great positions, and employers benefit from a promising talent pool. 

However, while this trend is on the upswing, there’s still lots of room for improvement: Only 40% of working-age adults with disabilities are currently employed. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so it’s a good time for employers not only to reflect on what they can do to reduce bias and increase opportunities but also to take action. By building disability awareness into recruiting, your company can make a commitment to accessibility and make inclusion part of its culture — and attract, hire and retain more of these workers in the process. 

Diversity includes disability 

The disability community is incredibly diverse, encompassing people with a wide variety of diagnoses — including physical disabilities, learning disabilities, blindness, autism, deafness, anxiety and chronic pain. Since many of these are “invisible” conditions, disability is much more common than it might appear. It is often impossible to tell if a person has a disability simply by looking at them. What’s more, many of us could experience a disability at some point in our lives — whether short-term or permanent. 

There are over 15 million working-age adults with disabilities in the U.S. today, making this a huge talent pool. To attract these job seekers, first ensure that your company meets — or exceeds — accessibility standards. With this baseline in place, you can reference it in your company’s job descriptions to demonstrate your commitment to inclusion. This helps ensure that practices, procedures and work sites are accessible to all current and potential hires.

Many of the country’s largest companies are also recognized as its most disability-friendly workplaces. For example, Microsoft demonstrated its commitment to disability inclusion by introducing a variety of hiring initiatives. These include its Autism Hiring Program, which creates new opportunities for job seekers with autism spectrum disorders, as well as Ability Hiring Events, bringing job seekers with disabilities together with specialized hiring teams. Similarly, Ford Motors and software company SAP are sourcing candidates with autism for specialized tech roles.  

Another great way to attract job seekers with disabilities is to prioritize awareness among current employees. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are widely used by companies to celebrate and support employee diversity, including those with disabilities. These groups help raise awareness for the community and…

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