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In Canada, approximately 14% of the population — 4.4 million Canadians – report having a disability. With an aging population, that number is on the rise.

A disability can affect someone’s body or mind, be mild or severe, happen at any stage of life, be long or short term – but even taking into account employment barriers, the majority of persons with disabilities are skilled and able to actively work.

The human and economic benefits of hiring persons with disabilities have been well documented. Some highlights:

  • A recent feature on CBC’s The National – The economic benefits of hiring disabled employees – showed how organizations large and small have integrated persons with disabilities not only into their workforce, but into the very core of their business, seeing huge returns on their bottom lines.
  • A study by Pizza Hut showed retention rates for employees with disabilities were 22% higher than the average for all employees.
  • A study by DuPont showed the percentage of employees with disabilities who rated average or above was:
    • 97% in safety
    • 86% in attendance
    • 90% in performance of job duties

In a recent CBC interview, David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, explored the notion that “people with disabilities are more productive and therefore are better employees”. He spoke from his own experience as a person with a disability, describing how his limited employment options pushed him to be more engaged in his field of journalism.

In Ontario, where Hirefly is based, the Accessibility Standard for Employment, part of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act, requires employers to build accessibility into their entire employment life cycle, from hiring to career development. While it’s being phased in from 2013 to 2017, there’s a lot you can do today to see the benefits of hiring persons with disabilities, no matter where you’re located or what industry you’re in.

Three Simple Ways to Make Your Hiring Accessible Today

When it comes to hiring, small changes to your recruitment process can enable your organization to attract persons with disabilities alongside other applicants.

While your organization can specifically target candidates with disabilities by working with local agencies, you can also start small by ensuring your existing hiring practices attract all kinds of people, including people with disabilities.

According to the Conference Board of Canada’s accessibility toolkit, “From the perspective of potential applicants who have a disability, communicating clearly and publicly about the availability of accommodations in the recruitment process sends a powerful signal that their candidacy is welcome.”

In other words, accessibility is about showing that you are a welcoming organization. But where to start?

Start by making sure your recruitment process sends a clear message that you welcome people with disabilities to work with you. Here are three practical ways to do that:

1) Include a note in all job ads – something like “We welcome applications from persons with disabilities. Let us know how we can accommodate you to participate in the recruitment process.”

2) When you call and/or email someone for an interview – offer accommodation. You can say something like “We’re excited to get to know you in this interview. Is there anything we can do to accommodate you to participate?”

I’ve said this for years. Most candidates have no requests. A few others have asked me for these accommodations:

a) Will my motorized wheelchair fit through the door of your interview room? I had to make sure in advance.

b) If there are any written materials, can I have them in a large font? I asked which font suited them and printed stuff in that font.

c) Will there by water? It doesn’t matter to me why they wanted water, I just always provided water.

You may get these or other requests. I think the important thing to note is that the candidates themselves are the experts on what they need. I didn’t need any special knowledge of disabilities to accommodate these requests. I only had to make it clear that I wanted people to feel welcome.

3) Say it again when you offer the job – “we offer ongoing accommodation”. Once again, employees are the experts in what they need, and ensuring they are welcome and comfortable will mean that they are present, equipped, and engaged for the work. It’s likely the law in your jurisdiction – it is in ours – and data show that the vast majority of accommodations fall in the (very accessible) range of $1 to $500 per employee.

With these simple changes, you’re on your way to attracting a larger talent pool with much to offer your organization.