Be a Disability Inclusion Champion During National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Follow these tips to help ensure that you’re cultivating an inclusive, welcoming, workplace.

Collage of arrows in various colors pointing forward, with images of disabled people at work.

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM)…a time for employers to not only reflect on their commitment to equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, but to take action to become a disability inclusion champion.  

The Importance of Disability Inclusion 

Despite being adaptable and resourceful – qualities every employer looks for – people with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes to the hiring process. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, only three in five Canadians experiencing disability (59%) were employed. People with disabilities possess a wide range of experiences, and perspectives, making them extremely valuable to your organization. Diverse teams are more innovative, and employees with disabilities bring unique problem-solving skills, creativity, and a different viewpoint to the table. 

Hiring and promoting people with disabilities can boost your company’s reputation with your employees, as well as with candidates, customers, and companies you do business with. Beyond being a moral imperative – and good business – hiring individuals with disabilities is often a legal requirement in many countries. Laws like the Employment Equity Act in Canada mandate equal employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities, so it’s important to be aware of any changes.  

Follow these tips to help ensure that you’re cultivating an inclusive, welcoming, workplace. 

Recruiting Employees with Disabilities 

Are your job postings accessible to everyone? Be sure to use unbiased language, provide alternative formats, and make sure your company website is compliant with web accessibility standards. Partner with organizations and job boards specializing in disability employment services; they can help you reach a broader pool of candidates.  

Review your interview processes to confirm that they’re accessible and that reasonable accommodation is provided when needed. Offering training to your HR staff and hiring managers on inclusive hiring practices is essential. You can help eliminate hiring decision biases by teaching your hiring managers how to better evaluate candidates based on job qualifications. Most importantly, focus on skills-based hiring rather than making assumptions based on disabilities. 

Creating an Inclusive Workplace 

Verify that both your physical and digital workspace is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Don’t guess or rely on anecdotal information when creating your inclusive workspace. Consult with appropriate legal counsel and government agencies like the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), to ensure that you’re not only meeting your legal responsibilities but also creating a welcoming workplace for all. And remember to get feedback from your employees with disabilities, to confirm that nothing is missed. 

Offering flexible work arrangements, like remote work or flexible hours, can accommodate various needs, including mobility challenges and medical appointments. Establishing mentorship programs and training initiatives that promote disability awareness and inclusion can encourage open dialogue about disabilities and create a supportive work environment.  

Being proactive in providing reasonable accommodation helps amplify the message of inclusion. Don’t wait for complaints to get ahead of potential issues; when they arise, always address them with openness and transparency. Collaborating with employees to identify and implement solutions will help promote equity and show that you’re cultivating an environment where all are valued. 

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) 

Creating ERGs or affinity groups supports employees with disabilities by providing a sense of community and a platform for advocacy. For example, Monster’s ERG, Abilities in Motion (AIM), focuses on providing support to employees who have a disability (visible or invisible) and those who are caring for someone with a disability.   

Amber Gopel, AIM’s co-lead, says, “We also bring awareness and provide education for those who wish to be allies. Abilities in Motion is a safe space to feel heard and seen and is a great platform to discuss ways that Monster can better support people with disabilities and their caretakers. As a caretaker to my spouse, this group has been an amazing source of strength. At the end of the day, it is all about being there for each other!” 

More Ways to Support Employee Development and Retention 

  • Career Pathing: Are you doing everything you can to make sure that all employees with disabilities are aware of, and considered for, career advancement? Employer branding materials, like an employer value proposition or a career site, can often be a good place to start. 
  • Mental Health Support: Recognize that disabilities can also include invisible conditions such as those related to mental health. Provide resources and support for mental health and stress management. 
  • Feedback and Communication: Encourage regular feedback from employees with disabilities to better understand their needs. Keep those communication channels open and transparent!
  • Partnerships: Is your organization looking for a business partner? You might consider working with a company owned by people with disabilities. Although many are small businesses, they cover a range of products and services that businesses of all sizes need. Additionally, working with these companies would increase your firm’s visibility and boost its reputation.

By recognizing the importance of inclusivity, expanding recruitment efforts, and supporting employees with disabilities, your organization can foster a workplace that values diversity and benefits from the unique talents and perspectives of all its members.   

To learn more actionable strategies that can boost your DE&I talent acquisition pipeline, be sure to read our eBook: Diversity Equity and Inclusion: 5 Ways to Expand Your Talent Pool