Igniting Purpose: Disability Inclusion and Accessibility

Creating a workplace that’s welcoming of those with disabilities marks the first installment in our three-part series.

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Apr 29, 2024

You have likely heard of “Diversity and Inclusion,” but how about Disability Inclusion? Most importantly, does your company provide an accessible environment and leverage a hiring process that is disability-friendly and welcoming to people of all ability levels? In this multi-part article, I’ll describe how my passion has been ignited as I foster an accessible and inclusive environment at my current organization. And finally, explain how being an ambassador for Disability Inclusion and Accessibility can profoundly impact any organization.

First, let’s start with some basic context relating to defining disability. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it’s someone who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,
  • Has a history or record of such an impairment (such as cancer that is in remission) or
  • Is perceived by others as having such an impairment (such as a person who has scars from a severe burn).

Here are some examples of disabilities you may encounter through coworkers, other employees, or job applicants during the hiring process (not a complete list):

  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Autism
  • Deafness or hearing loss
  • Blindness or low vision
  • Mobility disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities

As a Talent Acquisition and Recruiting industry veteran (Oracle, Cognizant, Ivanti), I have built and led large-scale talent programs with an intentional focus on diversity recruitment and candidate experience. As you can see in my blog post from 2021, I am extremely passionate about each candidate’s interview experience and want to ensure that my talent programs provide an optimal hiring workflow for every candidate. A world-class candidate experience takes training, commitment, collaboration, and dedication. It doesn’t materialize just because you want it or have good intentions. Action is required!

I began to implement accessible hiring practices in 2017, establishing processes that are inclusive for people with disabilities. This program entailed constructing a hiring workflow with a path for accommodation requests, inclusive job postings, training for recruiters, partnership with HR team members, and standardized coaching for hiring managers. Before this, I was guilty of taking a reactive approach to accommodations, scrambling to coach a given recruiter or hiring manager at the last minute. Being reactive and not proactive doesn’t position you for success, potentially failing to provide adequate candidate experience.

While I have been able to make an impact in these areas, it wasn’t until 2022 that I connected with an inner passion that has taken me on quite a journey, personally and professionally. Here is what happened. During a meeting with a UX Manager, I was asked, “Do you know that our current career site is eliminating people with disabilities from our applicant pool?”. I was dumbfounded and in disbelief. In short order, the UX team demonstrated the accessibility gap, showing me that keyboard navigation and accessibility highlighting were not available for those using an alternative viewing aid or technique.

My shock turned to embarrassment because our career site and the entire corporate website were inaccessible! This meant that any user trying to navigate via keyboard, screen reader, or braille display would be unable to browse any content effectively. The lack of website accessibility was a complete departure from my professional commitments, and it diminished the optimal candidate experience that I fiercely defended.

I met with the corporate website team, looking to gain their support to elevate the accessibility for users on the company’s website. I was filled with excitement because the associated stakeholders quickly built a plan and began to address the missing accessibility functionality efficiently. Within two weeks, our company website made accessibility highlighting and other related functionalities available, which was a huge leap forward. I ultimately engaged the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, leveraging them for accessibility testing. After additional work on the website, it has officially been deemed “Accessible”! The CEO was impressed after learning about the accessibility enhancements.

As you can imagine, this opened my eyes to the lack of accessibility in many areas, well beyond corporate websites, career sites, and hiring processes. I became extremely passionate about the topic, and I have moved into a role where I am operating as an ambassador for accessibility, partnering across departments and bringing visibility and awareness to the need for an accessible and welcoming workplace.

In the next part of this series, I will share my personal story and how people with disabilities in my own family have inspired me to champion accessibility and disability inclusion. Additionally, we will dig into actionable steps you can take to make an impact at your organization and foster an accessible and inclusive environment that benefits everyone!


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