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HR guide to hiring people with disabilities

“My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn’t accessible.” Stella Young, Disability Rights Activist and Comedian   This is the reality that...

“My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn’t accessible.” Stella Young, Disability Rights Activist and Comedian


This is the reality that faces most persons with disability (PwDs). There are obstacles that prevent them from taking up and retaining full-time employment opportunities. Job opportunities are not accessible or easy to apply, and the environment lacks the infrastructure and support for long-term employment.

Recruiting more diverse candidates is said to be one of the most important recruiting trends in the future. Multiple perspectives and a varied concoction of skill-sets are what brews innovation and growth within companies. With over a billion people worldwide with disabilities and 40 to 50 million in India, it represents a large pool of people with employable talents and skills.

In the last decade, there has been an increase in the number of companies who recognize this and have programs making jobs more accessible to PwDs. For instance, the Sin Barreras program at Accenture offers jobs to PwDs and strives to make the company more inclusive. Microsoft has a hiring program exclusively for people with autism. It also has a vibrant and active disability community and provides reasonable accommodations and awareness of disability inclusion throughout the company.

While there has been an increase in the number of disability inclusion programs in companies, the employment numbers shout a different story. In 2016, 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed, in contrast to 65.3 percent who were employed without one, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Out of this, only 3 percent of those with a disability wanted a job.

What steps can companies take to bridge this gap and get more people with special needs to work with them? A step in this direction is using talent assessment software. (Also read: 5 reasons you should use talent assessment tools)

In this article, we will talk about how companies can use talent assessment software to recruit people with special needs (PwDs) by making it easier for them to apply for jobs.

Guidelines for using talent assessment software for hiring people with disabilities

Employers check for candidate aptitude and fit using talent assessment software. This is done using tests which are created, uploaded, proctored, and evaluated online. There are several advantages of using these online tests to assess PwDs.

Since these tests are usually administered remotely, test takers can take them in the comfort of their homes at times that are convenient for them. Test takers are not subject to inconveniences such as traveling to a test center, giving the test in unfamiliar settings, sitting for a long duration of time, or relying on invigilators to explain instructions. (Also read: Remote yet close: New rules of hiring and retaining) The range of customization possible on an online test goes beyond traditional assessment settings. Every disability and the person is unique; traditional assessments rely on large-scale delivery of tests under the same conditions, without any exceptions. There isn’t scope to accommodate people who have special needs, largely alienating them and discouraging them from applying.

For online assessments to be successful, however, the following outlines must be met:

  • Explain why: People with disabilities tend not to disclose their conditions out of fear of discrimination and negative employer-perceptions which might affect their chances of landing the job. Companies must, therefore, try to put their fears to rest by letting them know why they are asking for voluntary disclosure of any disabilities. (Also read – Enabling workplace diversity with blind recruitment)
  • Let them know what to expect: It is best to give specific details of the test, administration method, and delivery to the candidates so that they can, in turn, respond with any adjustments that they might need. For instance, in the same page as the disclosure, employers can add a note saying that the test would require the use of a mouse as well as a keyboard and if users have any special requirements to let them know at that stage to make suitable accommodations.
  • Customize the test: Tweak the test administration or delivery to accommodate any special considerations that the test takers might have, without impacting the test results or the performance on the job. For instance, if the candidate has trouble reading text on the screen, an external reader can read the questions out loud, and input the answers on the candidate’s behalf. Alternatively, if the candidate is comfortable using the keyboard, instructions can be given using increasing font size with Ctrl and + keys. For someone with dyslexia, test times might be extended to give the candidate ample time to complete the test. This must be balanced with the demands on the job through to ensure that these tests can truly predict the candidate’s performance on the job.

Companies have found an increase in the number of applications from PwDs when application processes including tests are adjusted to accommodate their needs. Fujitsu, the leading Japanese IT products, and services provider noted a 3.4% increase in the proportion of applications from candidates with disabilities when they made small changes to their recruitment process including asking for information about disability and reasonable adjustments early-on in the application process.

Delivery of tests is incomplete without appropriate assessment. The next step to successfully recruiting PwDs is the accurate interpretation of test results. But have answers to such questions ready. Is there any difference in the criteria for gauging performance? How should the test evaluation match the accommodations made during the test (extra time allotted, the presence of external reader, etc.)?

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Comparing apples to apples: Interpreting test results

Talent assessment tests are standardized, which makes it easier to test multiple applicants with the same yardstick for performance. Interpreting results of tests that have been tweaked to allow for different abilities are complex because each person and his/her test result is unique. However, there are certain guidelines which can help during interpretation of results.

  • If test times were extended for an applicant, then employers must look at accuracy and test performance at different time limits, and under different sections. This should be compared with the aspects of the job that is highly relevant to the test, to get a true measure of performance. For instance, a test taker took an additional 30 minutes to complete a test that contained analytical, mathematical, verbal, and critical reasoning sections. When the evaluators took a closer look, they found that he had completed the analytical section faster compared to the rest of the test, the applicant will move to the next stage provided analytical skills are considered crucial for the role that he had applied for.
  • It is incorrectly assumed that while comparing test results, one should use a norm group of applicants with the same disability. This is because two people with the same disability are affected by it in two different ways. The best approach is to use a standard norm group, with or without disabilities, and compare performance to the job requirements.
  • When using psychometric tests to gauge personality, they should be analyzed in the standard way. There isn’t any difference in how these standard tests are interpreted for persons with or without disabilities.

As soon as a job vacancy arises, the job description should be evaluated by HR reps (after undergoing training on the disability types and degrees) to study possibilities of inclusion. (Also read: How not to write a job post) The next step is to open up the position on the website and job boards for people with or without disabilities. When people with disabilities express interest, companies can use talent assessments to make the application process convenient for them. While technology is a great enabler for recruiting people with disabilities, employers must know that the results from tests and questionnaires don’t work in silos, and only make up a small slice of the overall recruitment pie. The test results, however, need to be followed-up by interviews and any other suitable steps to determine if the candidate is a good fit for the role.

As a whole, the recruitment process has to be made more convenient and accessible to encourage more PwDs to apply for jobs within companies. When designing job descriptions, or deciding on the types of assessments to use, or the interview process, companies must think of how they can make adjustments to the environment or the process to encourage more people with disabilities to apply for roles.

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