Why including employees with disabilities is vital
Disability employment has moved to the front of business talk these days. We are facing what could be the largest labor shortage in recent history. A global pandemic has shown us what’s possible in remote workplaces.
Despite this there’s still a only 19.1% of people living with disabilities were employed in 2021. Contrast that with 63.8% of individuals without disabilities.
This goes beyond concerns about affording accommodations. It’s about the way many employers view and mentally consider the candidates we interview who have different needs and approaches to the workplace.
Changing Your Approach and Thinking to Be Inclusive
Based upon our experiences at WeCo, we’ve found three primary reasons why disability employment is struggling. As a Leading Disability Employer, we’ve included the solutions we apply to help change this.
One: Rethink what job experience means.
Many job seekers with disabilities can be at a distinct disadvantage. Namely because they’ve not been able to gain job experience and build their resumes.
WHAT WE DO/YOU CAN DO TO SOLVE THIS: We accept some types of course programs and volunteer experience as equivalent to job experience. If the candidate fits most, but not all of the qualifications, we gage their desire to learn on the job. Job shadowing and coaching is extremely normal in our team training.
Two: Don’t focus disability employment efforts solely on entry and low-level roles.
Ever notice that disability employment efforts often focus on “which warehouse” or “which phone center” disabled candidates will be placed? I believe that this is because most employers approach disability employment by looking at the person’s disability first, and their talents second. In our experience, we’ve seen more candidates with disabilities with advanced degrees and wide volunteer experience, than other applicants. Qualified people deserve qualified role consideration.
WHAT WE DO/YOU CAN DO TO SOLVE THIS: At WeCo, our company mission means that we view disabilities as a skill set, not an obstacle that needs to be overcome. All of our candidates are viewed as persons bringing talent to our table. We then match the person’s skills and aptitude to our open positions. It’s only when the offer has been accepted by the candidate that we begin to discuss how to accommodate their disability in their work with us.
And might I add that we’re a tiny company. If we can approach placement and accommodation this way, so can you.
Three: Challenge the concept that people with disabilities can’t manage others.
No one is saying this out loud, but many of us who live with disabilities and have worked in other organizations encounter an unspoken view that we aren’t management material. I think it goes hand-in-hand with the point above.
WHAT WE DO/YOU CAN DO TO SOLVE THIS: At WeCo, we look at aptitude in addition to experience. Some of the best managers we’ve had at WeCo were people who had never managed teams before. When we see that someone has management skills, we groom them by using a “Lead Worker” team structure in which they delegate work to others without having to assume full management responsibility. They gain experience and we figure out if they can take on more.
The results are pretty stunning. All of our management positions, except one, are currently filled by a person with a disability. I have observed that our managers tend to have great leadership qualities not always present in the formally trained, experienced managers I’ve worked with in the past. They are humble, insist on shouldering the responsibilities for the team rather than laying blame, and lead by example in ways I’ve never witnessed before.
Learn more about disability employment
If you want to learn more about how WeCo (a company founded and staffed by digital technologists who live with disabilities) approaches recruiting, hiring, and management, you can look into the resources listed below. You can also feel free to reach out to our Operations Team at: [email protected] or 855-849-5050 x 2.
Other WeCo Resources
WeCo’s Accessibility Blog gives you “bite size” education on digital accessibility that can be applied to inclusion employment.
Come visit our community on LinkedIn: Disability Employment Connection (DEC)!