The idea of employing someone with a disability can be a bit daunting. Chances are, you’ve never come across anyone with a disability before, so you’re bound to have concerns. Can they do the job? Will I say the wrong thing? Will it cost me a lot of money?
The good news is that employing people with disabilities has never been easier – and they’ll bring benefits to your organisation. Of course, there’s the feelgood factor, but it also makes good business sense. Rates of absenteeism among people with disabilities are the same or lower than average. People with disabilities stay in jobs for longer. And because they’re used to looking at life from a different angle, they’ll bring innovation and creativity to your company.
Here’s a breakdown on how to make the process smoother, for yourselves and for your employees.
The Job Description
Be as honest as possible when drafting your job description. For example, if you need someone who can drive, say so. Then a person who can’t drive because of their disability won’t waste their time or yours applying for a job they can’t do.
Do you tend to list ‘ability to work under pressure’ in your job descriptions? That can be off-putting for people with disabilities. Some disabilities, like mental health difficulties, can be exacerbated by pressure, even though they’re well up to the task. It’s better to concentrate on the more concrete skill sets you need, such as qualifications, work experience and IT skills.
Conduct the interview in a ground-floor room with no steps or uneven ground. Proceed with the interview the way you normally would. If a person is using a sign-language interpreter, address your remarks to the candidate – the interpreter may be speaking, but it’s the candidate’s words their saying. For blind candidates, indicate that you want to shake their hand.
The issue of the person’s disability is most likely to come up near the end, when you ask the person if they have any questions. They may take the opportunity to explain to you about their disability. If it doesn’t come up, you can raise the topic yourself if you have concerns. Legislation does prevent you from asking about the disability itself, but you’re bound to have questions about how the disability will impact on the job and the legislation does allow for this.
Preparing Your Office
You might imagine that you’re going to have to overhaul your office at great expense. But equality legislation only expects you to make ‘reasonable accommodations – adaptations that are within your budget or capacities. A lot of people may need no adjustments at all, or simple adaptations like computer software. Ask the person what they need and take your cue from them. If they do need expensive adaptations, Access Ability, an organisation run by Rehab, will advise you on grants that are available to cover the costs.
When They Arrive
Settle them in the way you would any other employee. People with disabilities just want a chance to show what they’re made of and they’ll be keen to learn. If all goes well, within a few days, you and your colleagues will forget that the person has a disability and they’ll just be one of the gang. And that’s where the true power of employing people with disabilities lies – when the disability ceases to be a barrier.
This information is drawn from my own experience as a visually impaired person.