Small Business Hiring Guide

4. How to Inclusively Hire People with Disabilities

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How to Inclusively Hire People with Disabilities

May 30, 2023 • 10 min read
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      Hiring people with disabilities benefits employers as well as communities. Having a diverse workplace creates a culture of inclusivity within the company. However, there are some challenges that can be easily addressed by knowing how to effectively hire employees with disabilities.

      What is a disability?

      According to the U.S. Department of Labor and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a “disability” is any “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

      Not all disabilities are visible. In fact, some disabilities occur periodically and are not constant. Others are more obvious and affect the individual on an ongoing basis.

      Benefits of hiring disabled workers.

      In today’s economy, businesses are finding it difficult to hire talented workers. Hiring people with disabilities can help companies meet workforce needs while remaining competitive within the market. Some of the biggest benefits of hiring disabled workers include:

      • Expanding the talent pool
      • Creating a diverse workplace
      • Meeting workforce needs
      • Fostering creative solutions
      • Generating goodwill among employees and customers

      In addition to these benefits, there are financial incentives to some businesses that hire people with disabilities, including federal tax credits like the Disabled Access Credit and Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC).

      Accommodations for disabled workers.

      Many individuals with disabilities need workplace accommodations, also called “productivity enhancers,” in order to perform their job to the best of their abilities. An accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, work environment, or the way in which things are usually done throughout the hiring or work process.

      Some examples of workplace accommodations include:

      • Physical changes to the office environment, such as installing a ramp
      • Assistive technologies, such as providing a screen reader
      • Accessible communications, such as providing large print manuals
      • Policy enhancements, such as adjusting work schedules

      The Job Accommodation Network is an Office of Disability Employment Policy-funded technical assistance center that provides free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations.

      The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

      Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the employment rights of people with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination against disabled workers and ensures that they are treated fairly. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the provisions within Title I of the ADA.

      Title I of the ADA applies to private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions. Those entities are prohibited from “discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.”

      How to hire a “qualified individual with disabilities.”

      Thus, pursuant to federal laws, employers may not discriminate when hiring disabled individuals. However, that does not explain how to actually hire qualified individuals with disabilities. Here are some tips for finding the best employees, regardless of disability status.

      Cast a wide net into the employee pool.

      The best way to find qualified workers who have disabilities is to seek candidates from a wide variety of sources. You may work with employment agencies, search for candidates in online databases, or accept applications conventionally.

      Do not place discriminatory restrictions on the position.

      Carefully write your job description and ensure you indicate that accommodations can be made for individuals with disabilities. Disabled candidates will be more likely to apply for your positions if they know up front that you are willing to accommodate qualified individuals.

      Do not focus on individual characteristics that are unrelated to the job.

      When you review qualifications of individuals, do not review unrelated characteristics of potential employees. For example, if you are hiring for a desk job, you should not ask if the individual can stand for a certain amount of time and lift up to 50 pounds. Instead, you should clearly state the tasks and duties of the job and keep in mind that those may require modifications as well.

      State in your job posting that you hire disabled individuals.

      Your job posting should specifically state that you actively seek to hire disabled workers. When presenting the atmosphere of the company, focus on your inclusive culture and welcoming environment. Provide examples of how your business works with people who have disabilities.

      Actions to avoid when hiring people with disabilities.

      There are also actions you should take to prevent disability bias during the hiring process. You will also want to avoid the appearance of discrimination.

      • Ensure anti-discrimination policies include disabilities
      • Offer reasonable accommodations during the application process
      • Do not ask job candidates if they are disabled
      • Do not ask about necessary accommodations
      • Do not make assumptions about a candidate’s capabilities
      • Ask everyone, not only people with obvious disabilities, if they can perform tasks of a job
      • Be clear that mental health concerns are not an auto-disqualifier for the job
      • Do not ask job candidates personal questions unrelated to the ability to do the job
      • Do not require any time of medical examination before making a job offer
      • If a medical exam is required after a job offer, all employees should be subject to the same requirements

      Managers and hiring professionals should be thoroughly trained in how to hire employees while considering the Americans with Disabilities Act.

      How to interview someone with disabilities.

      While this section will specifically address how to interview someone with potential disabilities, you should actually use these tips during all interviews. Creating an inclusive interview process should involve reasonable accommodations.

      • Ask the interviewee if you can make them comfortable with any accommodations
      • Allow plenty of time for the interview
      • If the interview is via video, place yourself directly in front of the camera at eye level
      • Speak directly to the person and maintain eye contact
      • Use the same interviewing techniques you always do
      • Clearly identify yourself and anyone else in the interview group
      • Listen attentively and focus on the person being interviewed
      • Allow the individual and their assistive devices to have personal space

      Hiring People With Disabilities Can Benefit Your Business

      Employees with disabilities greatly contribute to the workplace as well as the community. You should create a positive environment where all job candidates are comfortable and disabled workers feel included.

      If you have questions about how to hire or work with employees who are disabled, you should reach out to EEOC resources.

      For additional help with small business hiring, contact Lendio.

      About the author
      Brandy Abalos

      Brandy Abalos is a licensed attorney, content strategist, and marketing consultant for small businesses. She uses SEO tools to develop strong digital content for audiences who are learning how to navigate complex topics in law and business. When she is not writing, she seeks adventures with her three children, partner, and two corgis in Ohio.

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