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Accessibility is Key For Success In Diversity And Inclusion

By Kriz Bell

Kriz Bell lends her storytelling skills to the orgs who need them most. A traveler, blogger and single mom, she believes that #RepresentationMatters. She is always thrilled about using her power for good, prioritizing underrepresented stories and voices. Find her online as @krizbell

Diversity and Inclusion efforts are top of mind for many organizations, from leadership adding Chief Diversity Officer titles to their C-Suite and programs addressing explicit and implicit biases. Data showing diverse teams leads to increases in both ROI and innovation, HR departments and hiring managers are being tasked with recruiting diverse hires. Prioritizing cost-effectiveness brings gains in one line item, but it’s pound wise and penny foolish to not consider the rich value of sourcing truly diverse teams. With so much moving the diversity needle, people with disabilities are the group too often left out of D&I efforts.

Often differences in abilities are assumed to be included through ADA compliance policies, like ramps, elevators and parking spaces. Different abilities are often associated with negative stereotypes and limiting beliefs, or are not visible. By moving beyond compliance and generalizations, teams can open up opportunities to candidates with different abilities and expand limiting perceptions while diversifying teams.

According to the ARL, about 20% of Americans have some kind of disability. Accessibility issues can keep many candidates from even applying. Recruiting and interviewing processes are key points to entry as they can present roadblocks to inclusive hiring and diverse team building. There are myriad ways that organizations can make changes. They range from simple to sophisticated, and can help calibrate the focus away from limitations and onto unique abilities.

Ways to Prioritize and Promote Accessibility:

Recruiting:

  • In determining how and where to extend outreach efforts, make sure campaign assets, websites and forms follow web accessibility best practices. It’s important to develop materials and media across channels available to everyone, regardless of their specific abilities. Include candidates with speech, auditory, physical, visual, cognitive and neurological disabilities. Examples: optimized websites and forms, or Text Relay Services for calls.
  • Ensure HR, hiring managers and recruiting teams include accessibility under their priorities and goals. Accessibility has to go beyond campus and be reflected in the decisions made off-site at events like career-fairs and conferences. Each requires planning with local teams in order to be able to make your opportunities available to as many candidates as possible. Candidates need easy access to your booth, to be able to read, hear or see your materials as well as filling out your forms if they are to share their specific abilities and talents.

Interviewing:

Teams will want to confirm that locations (public transportation, parking, conference rooms, elevators and stairs, security sign-ins, remote campus locations, etc.) and equipment (telephones, websites, forms, furniture, etc.) reflect values that show how accessibility is prioritized.

Reassurance communicated with open and respectful communication can make a big difference in a candidate’s comfort level and eventual success. Add accessibility to the empathy and bias conversation in training. Ensure that hiring managers and recruiters can set expectations with candidates that their search efforts are not limited to candidates that look or perform a certain way, that they are actively avoiding the pitfalls of hiring “just like me”.

Create program guidelines deliberately designed to outline promotional pathways. This means the hiring process includes setting specific goals for employees with disabilities. Mapping from success allows you to manage expectations prior to hiring and avoid awkward conversations and unanswerable questions in interviews. Candidates with specific abilities will feel valued and reassured that resources are available. Success is difficult at best without dedicated resources and solutions.

Facilitating collaboration through abilities and talents without highlighting limitations and reinforcing biases can lead to the innovation that recruiters seek in diversity and inclusion initiatives. Like any design and development effort, testing is essential. As teams add abilities and access to their KPI’s, establishing benchmarks to track progress over time will provide valuable insights about success and improvements.

What are the first steps you will take to make your recruiting and interviews more accessible?

About Change Catalyst:

Change Catalyst empowers diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation — through education, community engagement and mentorship. Change Catalyst is a Certified B Corp, winning the “Best for the World”​ award for community impact in 2014 and “Best in the World”​ overall in 2015.

Tech Inclusion:

Our Tech Inclusion programs explore and develop innovative solutions to tech diversity and inclusion. We partner with the tech community to solve diversity and inclusion together through conferences, career fairs, strategic consulting and training. Our work spans the full tech ecosystem, including: Education, Workplace, Entrepreneurship and Policy.

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