Recruiting, Technology

Reaching Out to Job Seekers with Disabilities

People with disabilities are job seekers, too. And they represent a very large candidate pool.


An estimated 53 million U.S. adults live with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This equates to one out of every five American adults.

Employment Statistics

However, in 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, only 17.5 percent of people with a disability were employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It’s worth noting that people with a disability are three times more likely to be age 65 and over, which skews the number a bit.
Nevertheless, among all age groups, the employment-population ratio was much lower for people with a disability than for those with no disability. The unemployment rate for people with a disability, ages 16 to 64, was 11.7 percent in 2015, while the unemployment rate for people with no disability was 5.2 percent.

Targeting Job Seekers

So, how do you connect with job seekers who have the skills you seek, but have a disability?
It starts with the job posting.
While many companies indicate they are an Equal Opportunity employer and will accommodate people with disabilities in the workplace, few take this messaging a step further and address the job application process—a process that can be insurmountable for people with certain disabilities.
A search at job site Indeed finds less than 10 percent of job postings address the application process from the standpoint of accommodation. And some don’t do it well.
Consider this example:
“We endeavor to make this site accessible to any and all users. If you would like to contact us regarding the accessibility of our website or need assistance completing the application process, please contact the Human Resources department.”
No contact information is provided.
Or this example, from another employer:
“[Company] is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer committed to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of recruiting and employment. All qualified individuals are encouraged to apply and will receive consideration without regard to race, color, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran status or any other factor which cannot lawfully be used as a basis for an employment decision.
“Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities. Please tell us if you require a reasonable accommodation to apply for a job or to perform your job. Examples of reasonable accommodation include making a change to the application process or work procedures, providing documents in an alternate format, using a sign language interpreter, or using specialized equipment.”
Although the ad includes “please tell us” no contact information is provided. And talk about a lukewarm sentiment: “or any other factor which cannot lawfully be used as a basis for an employment decision.” Doesn’t exactly come across as welcoming, does it?

Sending a Clear Message

Fortunately, there are best practice examples, such as this paragraph from a Dow Chemical job ad:
“As part of our dedication to the diversity of our workforce, Dow is committed to Equal Employment Opportunity without regard for race, color, national origin, ethnicity, gender, protected veteran status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. We are also committed to providing reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans in our job application procedures. If you need assistance or an accommodation due to a disability, you may contact us at http://www.dow.com/en-us/contact-us, you may call us at 1+800-523-3945 and select Option 1, or send a facsimile request to 1+989-636-3674.”
Here’s another example, from a job posting for digital agency Phase2 Technology:
“At Phase2, we value diversity and are dedicated to creating an environment where people can share their own diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and ideas. Phase2 is proud to be an Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer. We do not discriminate based upon race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, status as a protected veteran, status as an individual with a disability, or other applicable legally protected characteristics.
“We are also committed to providing reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans in our job application procedures. If you need assistance or an accommodation due to a disability, you may contact us at hr@phase2technology.com or you may call us at 1+703-548-6050.”

Beyond Requirements

Including this level of detail in a job posting is not required by law.
With regard to the application process, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states: “If a job applicant with a disability needs an accommodation (such as a sign language interpreter) to apply for a job, the employer is required to provide the accommodation, so long as the accommodation does not cause the employer significant difficulty or expense.”
This may explain why so many employers ignore the issue altogether or make half-hearted attempts at outreach.
Yet, if you want to attract job seekers with disabilities, many of whom would likely be an asset to your organization, you need to get the messaging right. Job seekers with disabilities want to know that your company is welcoming and accommodating. It begins with the application process.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.